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Can PTSD Cause Insomnia?

Whenever a trauma hits you, it can affect you in many ways. Some of its effects might disappear quickly, but some effects can stick around with you for years or maybe forever.

People who have been through trauma often feel stressed, anxious, moody, or even extremely sad as they try to deal with their feelings. But what about the effects of trauma on sleep?

Evidence says around 80-90% of people with PTSD experience trouble sleeping, while 50-70% complain of seeing nightmares often.

Trouble sleeping is a common issue after a trauma. Some people see nightmares that keep them awake till late a4r43r5tt night or even make it difficult for them to fall asleep.

Having trouble sleeping when you have PTSD disrupts your brain's ability to deal with memories and feelings, which makes it harder to recover from what has happened. Some people with PTSD try to drink alcohol or use drugs to help them sleep, but this usually makes things worse, making it harder to sleep and making the PTSD symptoms worse, too.

Today, we will talk about what does PTSD mean, whether PTSD can cause insomnia, and how to sleep with PTSD insomnia.

 What Does PTSD Mean?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that occurs in individuals who have undergone a profoundly distressing or perilous event in their life.

Feeling fearful during and after such an event is a typical response as it triggers the body's innate survival mechanism known as the "fight-or-flight" response, helping in evading or confronting potential harm.

After the trauma, some people may eventually recover from it; however, for some, ongoing difficulties may lead to a diagnosis of PTSD.

People with PTSD might keep remembering the scary event over and over, have bad dreams about it, or feel like it's happening again.

They might avoid things that remind them of the event, feel startled, have trouble sleeping, concentrating, or remembering things, and feel guilty about surviving when others didn't.

Can PTSD Cause Insomnia?

PTSD symptoms can manifest differently for different people, even if they've gone through the same traumatic experience. Some might feel angry or unfriendly, while others may get anxious, sad, alone, and hopeless. These feelings can make it difficult for them to sleep.

Even research has recognized sleep problems as a risk factor for developing PTSD, which means trouble sleeping can make PTSD worse rather than the other way around. A review from 2021 says that when people experience trauma, those who have trouble sleeping are more likely to develop PTSD later on.

Most of the time, PTSD and insomnia go hand in hand. Once someone has PTSD, having insomnia makes their symptoms worse. And even if they get help for their other PTSD symptoms during the day, they might still have trouble sleeping.

How Does PTSD Affect Sleep Patterns?

Your body moves through different sleep stages and cycles. There are four stages of sleep divided into two categories: Non-rapid eye movement sleep (N-REM) and rapid eye movement sleep (REM).

The most important stage is REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, where your brain is active, but your body is not moving. Your heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure increase during REM sleep. This stage is also crucial for learning, storing memories, and processing emotions. Moreover, this is the stage where you dream.

People with PTSD feel constantly alert and cannot relax. After facing a trauma, their body starts staying alert at night, which makes them more stressed, leading to bad habits like napping during the day or using drugs or alcohol to sleep.

Since traumatic events cause nightmares and painful flashbacks, it makes sense that in PTSD, the REM stage of sleep is disturbed.

How Do You Treat PTSD Insomnia?

Here are some evidence-based tips to sleep better with PTSD insomnia: Choose a dark, quiet, and comfy sleeping area.Sweating and temperature changes can reduce sleep quality. Make sure to choose good sleepwear and keep the temperature of your room low (65°F to 68°F ideally). Avoid doing irrelevant activities in your bed. According to the Sleep Foundation, doing anything irrelevant in your bed, like working or eating, can lead to trouble sleeping.

Stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time daily. Make a bedtime routine. Try some calming activities like reading and taking a bath before bed.
  1. Avoid drinking alcohol and caffeine at night. Drinking alcohol before bed delays sleep onset and makes the person wake up with a headache and confusion.
  2. Regular exercise before sleeping can help calm your mind and body. Studies have found that moderate to intense exercise releases endorphins, which reduce pre-sleep anxiety and boost sleep quality.
  3. Screen break before sleeping.Turn off screens an hour before bedtime. You can try using ambient Galaxy projector to create a relaxing environment for yourself.
  4. Practice mindfulness and meditation to stop overthinking. Quieting the negative voices in your mind is the foremost step in fighting PTSD.
  5. Sleep where you feel secure,even if it's not your bedroom. If you're scared of nightmares, try not to let fear keep you awake. If you're in bed for 20 minutes without sleeping, do something relaxing, like book reading in another room until you feel sleepy again.

The Takeaway Message!

The connection between sleep and trauma is intricate. Experiencing traumatic events can affect your life in various ways, including your ability to sleep well.

Insomnia increases one's risk of developing the Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). However, improving your sleep hygiene and making minor changes in your lifestyle can help you sleep better and prevent you from developing PTSD.

Having a fixed sleep routine and a calm sleeping environment can fix your sleep issues. You can also try mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and guided imagery before sleep. It will calm your nerves, reduce anxiety, and assist in processing negative emotions linked to the trauma.

If sleep issues persist or you're turning to substances to sleep, talk to your doctor. They can recommend therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy or some PTSD-specific treatments and may suggest sleep medication as a last resort with caution.

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