For some, PTSD sleep disturbances happen every night.
In general, as the sun sets and kiddos get to bed, levels of anxiety begin to rise – quickly. In particular, many of us are fearful to fall asleep due to PTSD nightmares.
We have talked about how important routine is in the life of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder sufferers. Just as crucial as having a morning routine and structure throughout the day, so is having a bedtime routine. Good PTSD sleep habits will influence how well you sleep. Evening rituals are necessary for anyone to enjoy better rest and wake up energized. Your routine doesn’t have to be difficult or very involved. However, it should be structured in order to build a new healthy habit. Experiencing healthy sleep while fighting your PTSD battle is not quite as hard as you think.
Why Can’t Those with PTSD Sleep?
Those with PTSD find themselves suffering the symptoms of hyperarousal which keeps them awake or prevents solid sleep. Incorporating a routine for the evening will better prepare you and your loved one to sleep soundly. Hence insomnia being one of the worst symptoms. This is due to insomnia leading to worse symptoms which may invoke a PTSD episode. Night time can be daunting and anxiety provoking for someone with PTSD. Mainly because they fear falling asleep due to their flashbacks or nightmares. Then there is hyper-vigilance.
To describe, you will quickly scan your environment looking for risks of danger. Hyper-vigilance causes you zone in on a potential threat detected. The threat, imagined or non-existent, rapidly becomes sharper and more defined. In turn, your brain commands changes in your behavior. You may find a reason to escape or avoid the threat. Due to a your brain’s changes from PTSD, this involves engaging your fight or flight response, dissociating (frozen in fear, mental check out, and perhaps delusions). What’s worse is this can go on for hours, and at times all night long scanning your home for potential threat over and over again.
When PTSD Sleep Inhibitors Affect You and Your Spouse
We have all felt the harsh consequences of not getting good sleep. And this is not from a typical “toss and turn” situation. This is obviously more severe. Regarding the consequence of PTSD sleep disturbance, you may be all too familiar with the exhaustion, irritability, extra sensitive emotions, physical pain, and not to mention more anxiety! The cycle can be vicious and stressful, leaving you desperate for immediate stress relief.
Not to mention, when you don’t sleep it can also be hard on on your sweetheart. Mainly because you may want them to stay up with you, to feel safe, or, they’re up due to unintentional hyper-arousal behavior. It’s no surprise that experts recommend getting 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. This is because getting adequate sleep improves your over-all well-being. Essentially, reducing stress, irritability, and PTSD symptoms.
How to Get Sleep While Fighting Against PTSD
Adequate rest for both partners, the without PTSD, and the one suffering from PTSD sleep issues is utmost important. By all means, this is where a successful routine begins. Because we are creatures of habit, establishing a relaxing wind-down routine works the best. In fact, implementing a structured bedtime routine will train your mind to expect and prepare for sleep. Create a routine around what you enjoy doing. There are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind while designing your routine for PTSD sleep habits.
PTSD Sleep “Don’ts”
1. Don’t engage in stimulating activities:
This includes anything that requires your brain to work hard. Some things that I used to find myself doing, that were contributing to my self-sabotaging behaviors, worked against getting appropriate sleep. These activities included checking emails, getting on social media accounts, and thinking about stressful “To-Do” lists.
2. Don’t allow your attention to be in front of a screen:
(This includes Television, phone, computer, tablet, etc.) Refrain from watching movies and T.V. during the hour prior to when you would like to go to bed. If you typically have the T.V. on for noise while you try to sleep, you are actually causing more harm than good. However, replacing this comfort with a anxiety reducing play list of songs will help with sleep and PTSD.
3. Don’t begin or continue projects:
These require a strong focus or undivided attention. Again, this goes along with the two habits listed above. Basically, accept that you cannot solve everything in one day and that any project will still be there the next day. You get to choose when that project deserves your attention. Let yourself accept this notion and tell yourself that it’s okay to let it wait.
PTSD Sleep Activities: “To Do”
4. Practice calming and breathing exercises:
Having PTSD can affect your sleep, as you already know. However, it doesn’t have to. Believe it or not, there are quick grounding practices that provide a quick sense of calmness. For example, one of my favorites that works every time is placing an ice pack on the back of your neck while you lay down. Doing so brings all of your excessive random thoughts to a halt and your focus on the present moment. Not only does the ice pack calm you down, it eliminates muscle spasms and the tense tightening of muscles in your neck and shoulder.
5. Read a book (a real one):
Purchase a couple of new books, paperback books, that you can read before you go to bed. I would suggest any topic other than horror, mystery, suspense, or anything including anxiety provoking content. Instead, choose books that will help your PTSD and influence deep sleep. I am not suggesting reading the latest operators manual on wind turbines. Books that I find to be interesting to read but non-stimulating are, “The 4:8 Principal” which will retrain your thought process to produce positive thinking. Another excellent option is “PTSD Marriage Guide: Marriage, Children, and PTSD. What Now?“.
6. Take a hot relaxing bath or shower:
There’s something about taking a hot shower or bath before bed that triggers your brain to prepare for relaxing. Feeling the hot water also slows your breathing down and is very grounding.
7. Meditate or Praying:
If applicable, is another valuable step to add to your routine. Be sure to do this every night in order to make it a habit.
8. Journal about your day:
Is something suggested by therapists and motivational leaders alike. It works! Mainly because of the need to process out any lingering negative energy from our bodies. If you find that you didn’t experience anything negative, even better. Write about everything positive in your life. You will feel so good after you are done writing. There’s a helpful template below!
9. Read several positive quotes and affirmations:
105 of them can be found on my Pinterest board “Positive Quotes For Anxiety“. Make some time during the day to find these quotes and save them to your phone. If you wait until you are laying down in bed, accessing social media or the internet period will work against attempts to sleep. As a result, you may be tempted to explore your social media accounts which in turn, stimulates your mind, increasing anxiety.
For a free copy of Master PTSD Practitioner, Hamish Bayston’s “Improve Your Sleep Guide”, which comes with his recorded PTSD sleep hypnosis audio file, subscribe to my newsletter today!
Transition from Stimulation to Relaxation
A PTSD sleep routine should include a transitional exercise. In other words, shifting your thought process from active daily responsibilities to shutting off the day and preparing for sleep. Due to the challenge of the brain affected by PTSD “turning the brain off”, a transition exercise will help you move from hyper-arousal tendencies to preparing for rest. This exercise can be done by writing in a journal or by speaking out loud. This method especially works great for those who have not had a journal before or who feel awkward starting one.
Write down or recite the following questions. Then answer them. Commit to doing this for seven days to start. Inevitably, you will notice a difference the first time you do this. I’ve provided you with the same questions that I use. Remember, you will want to write them down or say them out loud. The same applies to answering them. First, find a quiet place free from any distractions or interruptions.
- What went well today?
- What could go better tomorrow?
- What three things am I most grateful for now?
- How can I be the best husband/wife that I can be than ever before?
- How can I be the best Father /Mother than I have ever been?
- How can I be the best version of myself than I ever have?
Medications for PTSD For Sleep
Medical Doctors who specialize in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other psychological issues can prescribe helpful sleep aids. Some sleep medications that work the best include Prazosin, Trazodone, Klonopin and Temazepam. Klonopin is an anti-seizure medication that also treats severe anxiety problems. Klonopin is one of the best medications to help ward off bad nightmares and help someone experience uninterrupted sleep. Temazepam is in the same class of drugs as Clonopin (benzodiazepams) and is used to treat insomnia issues including difficulty staying asleep. And some Doctors may prescribe another benzo like adavan or xanex to take an hour before taking the Temazepam. In conclusion, if your loved one is not sleeping well, asking their Doctor to prescribe a sleep aid will help them get the rest that they, and you, need.
Do yourself a huge favor. Don’t just read this article and think about implementing what you have learned today. Put these into action tonight! Given these points, you can begin with creating a PTSD sleep routine that meets your needs. If that means you start with just one or two at a time and then choose another one to add every couple of weeks, that’s totally fine. Making a change, any kind of change, gets easier over time. Stick with it and you will soon benefit from significant improvements in your PTSD sleep experience.
Don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter today to receive your free copy of Master PTSD Practitioner, Hamish Bayston’s printable “Improve Your Sleep Guide“, which also comes with his recorded PTSD sleep hypnosis audio file.
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