in a series of 4 articles, beginning with this one, guest experts explore the connection between ptsd and sleep, examine the different ways to approach treatment, introduce evidence-based therapies available for both ptsd and insomnia, and explore the connection between trauma and nightmares. sleep problems, particularly insomnia, are among the most common symptoms after a trauma and are reported by 70% of people with ptsd. other symptoms of ptsd include: ptsd seems to disrupt sleep by increasing the duration of light sleep; decreasing the duration of deep, restorative sleep; and interfering with rapid eye movement (rem) sleep, the stage of sleep linked to dreaming and nightmares. so among other things, a person needs sleep in order to sort out and process a traumatic event. so it makes sense that reduced quality of sleep is a risk factor for ptsd. ptsd and poor sleep interact in a cycle, and each can make the other worse. sleep problems such as insomnia get in the way of processing memories, which increases vulnerability to a traumatic event when it occurs.
and ptsd then contributes to continued sleep problems. temporal relations between sleep problems and both traumatic event exposure and ptsd: a critical review of the empirical literature. the relationship between acute stress disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder: a prospective evaluation of motor vehicle accident survivors. sleep complaints as early predictors of posttraumatic stress disorder: a 1-year prospective study of injured survivors of motor vehicle accidents. sleep and rem sleep disturbance in the pathophysiology of ptsd: the role of extinction memory. . sleep patterns before, during, and after deployment to iraq and afghanistan. doi:10.1093/sleep/33.12.1615 this article by guest experts diana dolan, phd and carin lefkowitz, psy.d from the center for deployment psychology is the first in a series on this complex relationship between ptsd and poor sleep.
learn about treatments that can help if you have ptsd and sleep problems. also, sleep problems that last a long time are related to medical problems such as heart disease, depression, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and stroke. this lack of sleep continues for a few months or more and is severe enough to cause problems at work and at home. because people with ptsd may try to push away trauma memories during the day, it may cause worries to get worse at night and disrupt sleep. over time, drug and alcohol use can also have negative effects on sleep quality and on overall health and functioning. research also shows that cbt-i reduces how many nightmares people have and the distress related to upsetting dreams. a trained cbt-i therapist may offer the treatment in one-on-one appointments or to a group of people with insomnia. there are also online programs and a smartphone app—cbt-i coach—designed to help with the treatment.
or, you may find that you need to adjust your sleep environment—such as limiting smartphone use or television viewing in bed—to be more comfortable. sleep medication is easy to take and usually provides quick, temporary relief. if you choose to take medication, you should be familiar with the side effects and risks before you take it. these medications usually become less helpful over time and don’t get to the core cause of sleep problems. people with sleep apnea may wake up not feeling rested and struggle with feeling tired or needing to sleep during the daytime. also, with sleep apnea, breathing pauses (or disruptions) happen during sleep, so a person may be unaware of those symptoms. to diagnose sleep apnea, a provider may recommend a sleep study. using marijuana, alcohol and street drugs to manage ptsd or sleep problems is related to a higher risk of thoughts about suicide and suicide attempts. there are effective treatments available for sleep problems and ptsd.
individuals with ptsd frequently have trouble falling asleep and awaken easily, often waking up many times throughout the night. many people sleep disturbances frequently co-occur with posttraumatic stress disorder (ptsd). insomnia and sleep disturbances are common in adults with ptsd and range from insomnia and nightmares to periodic leg movements and disruptive nocturnal, childhood trauma and sleep issues, childhood trauma and sleep issues, complex ptsd and sleep, ptsd waking up in panic, ptsd sleep medication.
ptsd seems to disrupt sleep by increasing the duration of light sleep; decreasing the duration of deep, restorative sleep; and interfering with almost everyone who has ptsd also has trouble sleeping. both insomnia and nightmares are ptsd symptoms. learn about treatments that can help if sleep problems in ptsd people with ptsd may wake up frequently during the night, have difficulty falling back asleep, or may wake up earlier, how to sleep with ptsd nightmares, ptsd sleeping on the floor.
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