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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:

  • Medication Side-Effects (Hormone drugs, pseudoephedrine, beta-blockers and anti-depressants - many medications affect sleep patterns in one way or another)
  • Not Enough Exposure to Natural Daylight
  • Too Much Exposure to Artificial Light in the Evening
  • Lack of Physical Activity or Sedentary Lifestyle
  • Poor Diet | Nutritional Deficiencies
  • Eating at Night, Indigestion
  • Excess Caffeine or Stimulant Consumption
  • Anxiety, Stress
  • Depression
  • Apnea, Asthma, Other Breathing Problems
  • Heart Disease
  • Hormonal Imbalances, Perimenopause - Menopause

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 experienced 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 percent (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

Environmental Modifications:

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:

  • Keep your bed easily accessible and approachable from all sides.

  • Make the energy in the room fresh, and help it flow by keeping the air pure, preferably with open windows. Also try to have several windows to allow in natural light.

  • Have the bed positioned in such a way that you can see the door. Not being able to see the entrance to your bedroom can create a feeling of anxiety.

  • Keep the room neat and clean with a balanced look and feel. Clutter and trash stresses you out and represents unfinished business, which can prevent you from really resting well in your room. (On that note, it can also affect your sex life.)

  • Use lighting to your advantage. In order to fall asleep, the body requires certain cues to trigger the release of melatonin – the hormone that naturally causes the body to sleep when it's dark, and to awaken when it's light. The most basic way to do this is to reduce your exposure to artificial light in the evening hours. If you tend to have every light on in the house at night, and you watch TV in the bedroom, it may be messing with your natural circadian rhythm. Instead, turn the TV off, and don't watch it in the bedroom at night. Ideally, no TV or computer should be in the bedroom, and the bedroom should be used only for the "2 S's": sleep and sex. While it often helps to sleep in a dark room, if keeping a nightlight on helps bring about a more safe feeling, then consider keeping the room dimly lit.

  • Be aware of noise. Minimize disturbing noises. If external noises are beyond your control (a busy street outside the window, a neighbor's barking dog), cover them up with the sound of a bedside fan, a white noise machine, or

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