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The Link Between PTSD and Sleep

woman sitting in darkened room during the middle of the night wondering about the link between PTSD and sleep

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can arise in those who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic or life-threatening event. However, many people are unaware of how PTSD can impact sleep. Those with PTSD can experience nightmares, flashbacks, and persistent negative emotions. These symptoms can severely disrupt sleep, leading to insomnia, fatigue, sleep disorders, and poor physical and mental health. It is essential to understand the link between PTSD and sleep to better support those affected by this condition.

At Connections Wellness Group, we have experience with PTSD treatment. Our caring, compassionate mental health professionals are ready to help you or a loved one struggling with PTSD. Call 940.360.4245 for more information or to get started with treatment.

The Causes of PTSD

PTSD is a complex disorder related to both psychological and neurochemical factors. Common causes of PTSD include the following:

  • Experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event such as an accident, natural disaster, assault, or war.
  • Experiencing physical or emotional abuse or neglect
  • Severe illness
  • Experiencing the death of a loved one

PTSD is unique to each individual and their experience with trauma. The severity of symptoms depends on many factors, including the type of trauma experienced, the individual’s coping skills, and their support system.

Trauma triggers the body’s fight-or-flight response, which releases hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline into the bloodstream. This leads to increased heart rate, rapid breathing, and heightened alertness—all of which are necessary for us to escape danger but can be disruptive to getting restful sleep. Trauma can also cause changes in our brain chemistry that cause these effects to reoccur even if there is no clear and present danger. This can affect our ability to relax and drift off into deep sleep.

How PTSD Affects Sleep

Sleep plays an essential role in maintaining our physical health as well as our mental well-being. When we don’t get enough restful sleep—particularly common among those with PTSD—a myriad of adverse side effects can occur. They may include any of the following:

  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Impaired judgment
  • Impaired memory recall
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches/pains/stiffness
  • Weakened immune system function

Without adequate sleep each night (7–9 hours for adults), we cannot function at our optimal level physically or mentally.

Treatment Options for Improving Sleep

Fortunately, many treatment options are available for improving sleep in those with PTSD. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been found to be effective in treating insomnia by helping individuals identify and manage any underlying issues contributing to their lack of restful sleep (e.g., fear of going to bed due to nightmares).

Additionally, medications such as antidepressants may be prescribed by a doctor for those with severe cases of insomnia due to trauma-related conditions such as PTSD. Other forms of therapy specifically tailored toward treating PTSD may also help improve sleep quality over time through techniques like relaxation exercises or mindfulness meditation/yoga practices, which promote inner peace and relaxation when done regularly before bedtime.

Contact Connections Wellness Group

Despite its complexities, understanding how PTSD can impact sleep is essential for helping people affected by this condition achieve better mental health outcomes overall. Fortunately, there are many treatment options available today that can help improve the quality of sleep in those with PTSD through the use of medication/therapy combinations tailored specifically toward this purpose.

Connections Wellness Group knows that with a proper diagnosis from a qualified medical professional combined with supportive lifestyle modifications such as regular exercise/healthy eating habits/mindfulness practices etc., individuals living with PTSD should be able to find relief from their sleepless nights over time if they remain committed to their treatment plan. Call 940.360.4245 or reach out online to learn more about how PTSD affects sleep.