How To Cope With PTSD-Related Sleep Problems
If you suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you may also be contending with a sleep disorder. Unfortunately, the intensity of one condition often affects the other. For this reason, it can be helpful for those suffering from PTSD to find tools and strategies to sleep better.
If you think you might be suffering from PTSD, reach out to a medical professional. Moreover, if you or a loved one is exhibiting self-injurious or harmful behavior, call 911 immediately.
What is PTSD?
PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that occurs in people who have experienced (or witnessed) a traumatic event such as a serious accident, terrorist act, or combat/war. Symptoms often include flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety.
If you’ve survived a terrifying ordeal and the fallout is still disrupting your life months or years later, you may have PTSD. While it can feel like you’re alone in this battle, know that there are many others contending with this condition. In fact, about one in 11 U.S. adults will be diagnosed with PTSD in his or her lifetime.
What Are The Symptoms of PTSD?
Signs of PTSD are important to know and recognize when seeking help and during treatment. Symptoms of PTSD can include:
- Avoidance of people, places, or things
- Being easily startled
- Difficulty focusing
- Emotional numbness
- Intrusive thoughts
- Memory problems
- Negative self-reflection
- Relationship problems
- Self-destructive behavior
- Severe emotional distress
How Does PTSD Affect Sleep Quality?
Insomnia is a hallmark condition of PTSD. The National Institutes of Health says that 70-91% of patients with PTSD have trouble falling or staying asleep.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, fragmented sleep happens because people with PTSD feel they need to be alert for danger continually. Nightmares, chronic pain, or other medical problems, and repetitive negative thoughts also contribute to inadequate rest. Using alcohol or drugs to cope can also affect sleep quality.
Talk to a medical professional to learn how to counteract PTSD-induced sleep issues. In addition, you can try the following bedtime relaxation techniques adapted from the National Sleep Foundation:
Sleep Where You Feel SafeWhile the bedroom is optimal, it's not always right for everyone, especially if the traumatic event took place there. Find a room that helps you feel relaxed.
Prepare Your Sleep EnvironmentSleeping preferences are different for everyone. That said, most people prefer a dark, cool, comfortable place. Turning on a night light and listening to relaxing sleep sounds may help you feel safer.
Find a Way to Wind DownTry listening to an audiobook, podcast, or mellow music or soaking in a warm bath or hot tub. Avoid mentally or physically stimulating activities, including discussing your trauma before bend.
Give Yourself Time to DigestWhile it can feel good to eat before bed, it can result in poorer sleep. Those with PTSD should also be careful with consuming alcohol before bed. Try to give yourself at least two food-free hours prior to sleeping.
Sleep When You Feel SleepyYou may need to rest more frequently and for more time. It may be helpful to take short naps (15-45 minutes) throughout the day. Avoid trying to force yourself to fall asleep, as it may add counter-productive pressure and exacerbate sleep problems.
A Better Way to Battle Sleep Disorders
PTSD is a complex condition, but with professional help it is treatable. One of the ways you can support your recovery is to get the sleep you need. Ask your doctor if listening to white noise or binaural beats could help get a more restful night’s sleep, and shop the SleepPhones® catalog for the most comfortable sleep headphones.
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