INformation, Resources, and Support for Women with PTSD
The science of sleep: In order to properly sleep, one needs to consume tryptophan (an amino acid) from an outside source to start the process. The tryptophan is then converted to 5-HTP, which is then converted into serotonin. The serotonin then converts to melatonin, which makes the body’s biological clock run smoothly and determine when it is time to go to sleep and when it’s time to venture out of bed. It is the master clock, if you will, making us sleepy-or alert-at the proper times, because melatonin produced is released in higher amounts the darker it is, while the amount lessens with more light. Since tryptophan is the only amino acid that can convert to serotonin, it is also the only one that can ultimately up your melatonin.
PTSD and Sleep (Excess or Lack Thereof)
Stress from a traumatic event (or events) can often lead to a variety of sleep problems. When one’s body is over-stimulated, the brain is flooded with neurochemicals that keep us awake (such as epinephrine and adrenaline) making it difficult to wind down at the end of the day. The neurochemicals stay in the brain and can interrupt your normal sleep cycle. The result can be insomnia, bad dreams, and daytime fatigue caused by sleep disturbance. Symptoms of PTSD and co-occurring disorders or diseases that may impact sleep patterns are:
The following are sleep problems commonly seen in those with PTSD/CPTSD:
· Flashbacks and troubling thoughts can make falling asleep difficult. The victim might feel the need to maintain a high level of vigilance, which can make sleep elusive. For those who experience violent situations, nighttime and darkness can, in and of themselves, bring about added anxiety and restlessness.
Taking naps during the day might be helpful, but, if overdone, can also interfere with efforts to sleep through the night. Once asleep, nightmares can frighten a survivor back to consciousness, and getting back to sleep can be very difficult. Research has shown that somewhere around 50-70% (or more) of those with PTSD have nightmares. Not only are trauma survivors more likely to have nightmares, those who do may have them quite often. Some survivors may have nightmares several times a week. Sleep walking/talking/eating, night sweats, lucid dreaming (you are aware that you are dreaming), and REM Sleep Behavior Disorder (dreams are acted out) have also been reported.
· Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder has been found to commonly occur for those with PTSD. This is when one is unable to fall asleep until late at night and therefore wakes later in the day than is expected for a “normal” sleep schedule.
Many survivors use alcohol or illicit drugs to numb the emotional and physical pain following trauma. These substances can not only impact the healing process, they can also exacerbate sleep problems.
Medications to target symptoms of PTSD can affect sleep patterns by increasing or decreasing tiredness levels. *Talk to a physician about the possible effects that a medication may have on sleep.
· Those with PTSD have higher rates of depression, which is itself often associated with poor sleep.
Promoting Good Sleep Patterns
Improve the Feng Shui. Feng shui is more than just decorating your space in a visually appealing way; it’s a full philosophy that instructs on how to arrange your room, furniture, office, etc. to maximize good energy flow throughout living spaces. Here are a few tips for improving the Feng shui of your bedroom to help you get the most of a good night’s rest:
Yoga and Meditation
Meditate: Take some time before you crawl in bed to meditate and clear your mind of cluttering thoughts. Thinking too much, as we all know, can keep you awake for hours as you churn over the same thoughts again and again. Getting a good night’s rest is not just about your body-with how complex our thinking process is, our minds need just as much help (if not more) to get ready for bed.
Visualize yourself asleep. Imagine yourself drifting in a blissful slumber while practicing deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation. Starting at one end of the body and working up or down, clench and then release each section of muscles for instant all-over relaxation
Do some gentle yoga or stretching, not vigorous power or ashtanga yoga, which could energize you instead. Try easy yoga stretches in bed followed by simple meditation. Close your eyes and, for 5 to 10 minutes, pay attention to nothing but your breathing.
Yoga for Insomnia and Stress:
Diet, Vitamins, and Supplements
Finding your personal sleep-time ritual
A sleep ritual is a great way to develop a habit that cues your body and brain that it's time for sleep. About an hour before you want to turn in, engage in a routine or series of habits that promote sleep. A candlelit bath to relax the body and to reduce exposure to light is a good choice. Add a few drops of relaxing essential oils. Alternatively, sip a cup of chamomile or sleepy-time tea. Light a candle, read a bit or write in a journal. You could also focus on meditation or unwinding. If you have discomfort in the body that wakes you, some light stretches and yoga poses that induce relaxation can help you enjoy a more restful sleep. Never do any kind of strenuous exercise in the evenings though or it will keep you up.
Sleep rituals induce relaxation in the body and mind, making it easier to sleep. It may take a bit of trial and error to find the right combination of strategies to obtain improved quality and increased quantity of sleep. Adapt your ritual to meet your needs, and rest well, friends.
Women with PTSD United