A Living Nightmare: Is PTSD Robbing You of Sleep?

Last updated on December 11th, 2019

Insomnia is a persistent disorder that causes you to have trouble going to and/or remaining asleep. These same sleep issues, however, are also seen among those who have been diagnosed with post-traumatic syndrome (PTSD). While insomnia and PTSD-related sleep problems certainly share similar traits, the sleep issues linked to PTSD can present drastically different outcomes.

Linking PTSD and Poor Sleep

After a traumatic experience, it’s normal to feel frightened, sad, anxious and isolated. If those feelings don’t fade with time, however, people generally become overwhelmed by the constant sense of danger and painful memories. It’s at this point most are clinically diagnosed with PTSD.

Commonly associated with war veterans, PTSD is a mental health condition triggered by experiencing or witnessing terrifying events. Others commonly diagnosed with PTSD include survivors of sexual abuse, natural disasters, severe accidents or serious emotional traumas.

The Negative Side Effects

A lack of sleep or experiencing poor quality sleep can wreak havoc on anyone, but sleep deprivation is especially dangerous for those struggling with PTSD. Clinical research has shown that veterans report an average of 5.6 hours of sleep, which is significantly less than what is suggested to maintain optimal health. Running on too little sleep can exacerbate anger, irritability and moodiness – issues that PTSD is already negatively effecting.

Let’s look at four possible signs and symptoms of PTSD-related sleep problems:

  • Consumed with WorryFlashbacks, another common PTSD symptom, occur when you’re awake. Having the past bleed into the present can result in depression, anxiety and put you in a negative or worrisome state of mind. Since PTSD already puts you a constant state of alert and fear, sleep issues can take hold and significantly intensify those feelings.
  • HypervigilanceBeing in constant “fight-or-flight” mode is known as hypervigilance or hyperarousal. For those with PTSD, living in this constant state of alert can not only make it difficult to peacefully rest, it also makes it next to impossible to perform daily tasks or maintain positive relationships.
  • NightmaresFor most, going to sleep marks the peaceful and comforting end to a long day. If you’re suffering from PTSD, however, the thought of going to sleep can cause amplified stress and fear. Why? Well, PTSD causes many to experience crippling, vivid nightmares that replay traumatic events on a constant loop. In these cases, drifting off to sleep is anything but peaceful and comforting.
  • Unpredictable Sleeping DifficultiesWhile insomniacs typically exhibit predictable patterns of sleep disruption, those with PTSD are the exact opposite – they exhibit unpredictable sleeping difficulties. Recognizing these unique sleep-related issues, medical professionals have essentially been forced to treat patients on a case-by-case basis, creating individualized treatment programs with a unified goal of empowering the sense of self with a good night’s sleep.

Additional Reading: THC for PTSD: Marijuana Military Study Approved

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