Updated at: 05-01-2022 - By: Jane Brody

Arousal levels remain elevated for an extended period of time following a traumatic experience, which is known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Traumatic events can have long-term effects on people’s lives, and they may not know they have post-traumatic stress disorder for months or even years after the event occurs. Women are more likely to get the condition, although it can happen to anyone. Seven out of every 100 people will suffer from PTSD at some point in their lives.

The connection between sleep deprivation and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is nuanced. Even though sleep disorders are common in many mental health illnesses, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) sufferers must contend with them on a regular basis. There are two sleep-related symptoms that can be utilized to diagnose PTSD: hyperarousal and intrusion, both of which can cause insomnia and nightmares. Scientists are currently attempting to determine whether or not sleep issues are pre-existing to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.

What is PTSD?

Stressful or unpleasant situations can induce post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a type of anxiety disorder.

As a result of the traumatic event, a person with PTSD may suffer from recurring nightmares and flashbacks as well as emotions of irritation and guilt.

Aside from sleep issues, such as insomnia, they may also find it difficult to concentrate.

These symptoms can have a substantial influence on a person’s daily life if they are severe and persistent.

Causes of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

PTSD can be caused by an incident that a person considers traumatic.

These are some examples:

  • Serious traffic collisions
  • sexual assault, mugging, or robbery are examples of violent personal assaults.
  • a grave state of ill-health
  • Experiences with childbirth

The onset of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) might be instantaneous, or it can take weeks, months, or even years.

A person with a traumatic experience is at risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in one out of every three. However, no one knows why some people acquire the disorder and others do not.

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Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Complex PTSD may be diagnosed in those who have been subjected to repeated exposure to traumatic events, such as severe neglect, abuse, or violence.

Even though the symptoms of complex PTSD are similar to those of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), they may not appear for years after the traumatic event has occurred.

A child’s development can be harmed more severely if the trauma occurred early in life.

How Do Sleep Issues Affect PTSD Symptoms?

People who have difficulty sleeping after a distressing event are more likely to acquire post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the future. In fact, sleep disturbance, including nightmares, insomnia, and fragmented rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, is one of the initial indications of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

It’s possible that sleep issues that occurred before the stressful experience play a factor. According to one study, those who reported having nightmares in the months leading up to their deployment were more likely to return home with PTSD.

The prevalence of sleep issues appears to increase PTSD symptoms once the disorder has taken hold. Many people continue to have insomnia even after receiving treatment for their daily PTSD symptoms.

The brain’s ability to integrate memories and emotions is hindered by sleep disorders in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often turn to alcohol or other narcotics to help them sleep. In fact, these unproductive coping methods exacerbate sleep problems and exacerbate PTSD symptoms rather than alleviate them.

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How Does PTSD Affect Sleep?

People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) typically have difficulty sleeping and waking up at night, often waking up multiple times during the night. A common symptom of PTSD is recurring dreams. As a result of these problems, it is difficult to have a restful night’s sleep.

It can be difficult to sleep well for those who suffer from conditions including chronic pain and substance misuse as well as traumatic brain injury, mental illness, and depression. REM sleep, the period of sleep during which humans dream, is a critical sleep stage for dealing with traumatic memories. Certain sleep drugs, however, interfere with REM sleep.

There are three main types of sleep issues associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD):

  • Insomnia: An estimated 90% of persons with post-traumatic stress disorder have sleeplessness. Due to their hyperarousal, the individual is unable to go to sleep at night. Also, it could be a result of having been in a scenario that necessitated 24-hour awareness. As the stress of not being able to sleep leads to maladaptive sleep patterns such as daytime napping or substance addiction, insomnia in PTSD may be self-perpetuating.
  • Nightmares and Night Terrors: Most people with PTSD suffer from nightmares and night terrors, which keep them awake at night and make it difficult to fall back asleep. Many people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) describe recurring nightmares as a result of their vivid dreams. Imagery rehearsal therapy is occasionally used to cure nightmares, in which the patient “rewrites” the dream’s screenplay during waking hours to make it less menacing.
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): OSA is more common in persons with PTSD, but it’s not known why. It could be linked to variables like prolonged arousal or alcohol usage. The use of CPAP machines has been shown to be effective in treating OSA in those suffering from PTSD and may even lessen the frequency of nightmares. Even though it is less effective, a mandibular advancement device may be preferred by those who are uncomfortable with the triggering or claustrophobic effects of CPAP.

Sleep issues caused by PTSD and other coexisting diseases like depression must be addressed in order to alleviate a person’s PTSD symptoms on the whole.

The Connection Between PTSD, Sleep, and the Brain

People who suffer from PTSD and sleep disturbances have various brain regions that overlap, including the amygdala, anterior cingulate cortex, and insular cortex. Flashbacks and nightmares may be triggered by these parts of the brain, which may also keep the patient in a hyperaroused condition.

People with PTSD have been discovered to have a higher heart rate while sleeping, indicating an increased fight-or-flight reaction that keeps the body always alert. People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are more likely to have sleep disturbances, including more stage one light sleep, less slow-wave sleep, and REM sleep fragmentation.

PTSD and sleep may be linked in a number of ways, including how the brain processes fear-inducing memories. When a traumatic experience occurs, the brain develops a negative association with a particular stimulus. Traumatic events can trigger violent reactions in people even decades after the incident, and this link may be so powerful that it occurs every time they are exposed to similar stimuli.

Extinction memory, in which the brain gradually learns to separate the stimulus from the taught reaction, normally dampens this response. In REM sleep, a lot of emotional memory processing occurs, and experts believe that PTSD sufferers may not be able to process their trauma effectively because of sleep disturbances.

Anxiety and hypersensitivity to stressors are common side effects of sleep deprivation, as is daytime drowsiness and the ability to adopt effective coping methods. Improved sleep appears to have a positive impact on PTSD, as well.

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How to Sleep Better With PTSD

PTSD sufferers’ sleep issues can be alleviated to a great extent by following a few simple rules of good sleep hygiene. Among them:

  • Maintaining a sleep environment that is cold, dark, and silent
  • keeping the bedroom solely for sleeping and having sex
  • Maintaining a consistent sleep routine
  • Prior to going to bed, make sure you’re eating well and staying away from caffeine.
  • Consistently engaging in physical activity can assist in reducing hyperarousal.
  • avoid talking about your distressing experience prior to going to sleep
  • Before going to bed, take a warm bath or read a comforting book.
  • Disconnecting from electronic devices one hour before bedtime
  • If you’re easily disturbed, a white noise machine can help you relax.
  • Meditating or employing other methods to avoid ruminating

Your bedroom may or may not be the best place for you to sleep. A nightlight can help you sleep better if you’re afraid of the dark.

The fear of having nightmares is common among those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Sadly, this can lead to a night of sleepless nights and a frantic mind. In the event that you can’t get to sleep after 20 minutes in the same position, get out of bed and do something soothing in another room until you feel drowsy again. As a result, your bed will become more closely associated with a peaceful night’s sleep.

Seek treatment from your doctor if you’re having difficulties sleeping or turning to things like drugs or alcohol to help you sleep. A therapist who specializes in cognitive-behavioral treatment for insomnia (CBT-I) and PTSD-specific approaches such as imagery rehearsal therapy or exposure, relaxation, and rescripting therapy may be able to assist you in your search. They can also prescribe sleeping pills, but this comes with a higher level of danger and should only be taken sparingly.

It may take some time to be able to sleep through the night again after a traumatic experience, so don’t give up hope. If you stick to a balanced diet and regular visits to the doctor, you should start to feel better soon. Insomniacs benefit from continued counseling since sleep and PTSD are so tightly related.

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Portrait od Asian man depressed frustrated and hard to sleep on the bed in the midnight

Sleep Tips for Partners of People With PTSD

People with PTSD and their spouses may have trouble sleeping because the majority of efforts are focused on how to assist them in sleep. People who frequently wake up in the night may benefit from a mattress that reduces noise and movement.

It’s possible that your partner’s violent outbursts could be the result of their night terrors or nightmares. However, despite your best intentions, you may need to sleep in a separate room from your partner on occasion so that you can recharge your batteries.

Getting some exercise in with your partner during the day can also be beneficial. Additionally, establishing healthy habits with your partner can strengthen your relationship and help restore a sense of security for your loved one.

Caregiver guilt and the notion that they are responsible for “saving” their partner are common feelings for many. Helping someone else at the expense of your own well-being might be detrimental to both of you. Burnout can be lessened with the support of a solid support system, such as a therapist-client relationship, a group support system, or even a strong network of family and friends.

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