How Does PTSD Affect Sleep?

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Getting good sleep is one of the most critical factors in the well-being of your body and mind. Sleep affects your immune system, emotional health, and how you perform at work or in school. Unfortunately, specific mental and physical health issues can make this a challenge. 

Among these is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a disorder that about 8 million adults in the U.S face every year. Depending on its severity, it can cause a variety of symptoms. Known symptoms include intrusive flashbacks of trauma, inability to feel pleasure, memory loss, and sleep disturbances. Treating your PTSD and any co-occurring disorders, such as substance use disorder, can help you improve the quality of your sleep and reap the benefits of good rest. 

Why Sleep Is Important 

Sleep is the time to heal and regulate the many processes that go on inside your body. During sleep, your brain processes information and creates new pathways to help you retain and use information. 

For this reason, a good night’s sleep can help you learn new skills or develop your studies. Sleep deficiency has been known to cause difficulty in making decisions and problem solving and even make some people more impulsive. A lack of rest has also been linked to depression, suicide, and risk-taking behavior.  

The quality of your sleep can undoubtedly impact both your mind and body. Sleep is involved in the healing and maintaining of your heart and blood vessel. This means that sleep deficiency is linked to serious complications like heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Your immune system also relies on rest to function properly. Therefore, sleep deficiency can increase the risk of infections.  

Another important thing about sleep is how it affects your performance during the daytime. If you do not get enough rest, especially for a few nights in a row, it can hurt your productivity at work or in school. This can make it harder for you to focus, take longer to complete tasks, and increase the chance of making mistakes. 

The symptoms brought on by sleep deficiency can also make driving very dangerous for you and others. Sleep deficiency can cause similar effects to that of drunk driving. It is estimated that sleep deprivation is a factor in over 100,000 car accidents per year. 

PTSD Sleep Treatments 

There are plenty of ways to improve sleep. However, sleep may only be improved after treating PTSD. Luckily, there are new treatments available to help people deal with the specific sleep problems that this disorder can cause. 

People with this condition may have trouble sleeping because of sleep-disordered breathing (SDB), which is more common in people with PTSD. Uncontrolled studies using positive airway pressure during sleep have shown significant decreases in nightmares, insomnia, and PTSD symptoms. 

Another difficulty this disorder can pose on sleep is frequent nightmares and insomnia. Image rehearsal therapy (IRT) is an option being researched to tackle these symptoms. One large randomized controlled trial of group IRT patients showed a significant reduction in nightmares and insomnia. 

IRT is a therapy in which you discuss your nightmares with a trained professional, and then you create positive endings to those nightmares and rehearse them. Over time it can reduce the frequency and intensity of repeated nightmares, which can be beneficial for PTSD patients who often relive events in their minds.

General Tips for Improved Sleep

Once getting treated for PTSD symptoms and learning how they relate to your sleep, there are some tips to keep in mind to further improve your sleep quality. These tips can help even if you do not have a sleep disorder: 

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends. This helps your body get into a rhythm that can improve sleep and overall health.
  • Relax an hour before bed to wind down. Avoid artificial light and intense exercise, as these activities can signal your mind to stay awake. 
  • Avoid heavy or large meals within a couple of hours of bedtime. Light snacks are okay.
  • Spend time outside and be physically active when possible.
  • Keep your bedroom cool, quiet, and dark. Your body has to lower its temperature to initiate sleep.
  • Take a warm bath or use relaxation techniques before bed. 

It is good to keep in mind that substances can negatively impact rest too. Nicotine, cannabis, and alcohol can all cause difficulty sleeping if you use them before bed. Amphetamines and caffeine can also affect your sleep. If you are suffering from substance use disorder, finding treatment may aid you in sleeping better.

Sleep is a vital aspect of your life, although most do not appreciate just how impactful it can be. Rest is just as important as eating well, exercising, and caring for your mind. Numerous issues can get between you and a good night’s sleep, such as stress, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or substance use. When deciding to make changes or seek treatment, keep your sleep in mind. At Everlast Recovery Centers, we treat substance use disorders and mental health disorders like PTSD using trauma-informed care. This means that we can recognize and treat cases of PTSD if nobody is aware of them. We are also very sensitive to our clients’ possible trauma. If PTSD and substance use disorder is successfully treated, the chances of healthy sleep and overall well-being will significantly increase. Contact us today at (866) 338-6925 to learn more about treatment at Everlast and how we can help.  

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