Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It is what happens to your mind, body and soul after you have experienced an incomparable amount of stress that you are unable to cope with.

3.6 percent of U.S. adults (5.2 million people) have PTSD during a given year. Of that percentage, 30% of the men and women who spent time in war zones experience PTSD. To acknowledge our veterans on National PTSD Awareness Day and in preparation for Independence Day, this post is dedicated to bring awareness to sleep deprivation and the PTSD sufferer.

Someone suffering with PTSD may exhibit a few tell-tale symptoms, one of which is sleep deprivation. Before you sleep, many sleep therapists and experts suggest making your environment cool, comfortable, and most of all, quiet. However, it’s the quiet that makes many uncomfortable.

“People affected by the disorder also have increased chances of experiencing sleep disruptions associated with nightmares. This fact holds true because one of the core symptoms of PTSD, unwanted reliving of traumatic experiences, often occurs during sleep and produces uncomfortable emotional states that characterize nightmares.”

While nightmares are common, other problems in addition to nightmares can prevent deep sleep for people suffering from PTSD.

“Apart from any nightmare-related issues, some people with post-traumatic stress disorder develop sleeping problems associated with a recurrently negative or worrying frame of mind. Others develop problems associated with an overly activated “fight-or-flight” reaction that makes them unusually jumpy or jittery.”

For some, the mere thought that they will not be able to sleep due to PTSD symptoms causes anxiety preventing a good night’s rest.

The Solution? The Cycle.

Many try to self soothe with excessive alcohol or excessive drug intake which only amplifies the problem.

“The National Center for PTSD reports that excessive alcohol intake, excessive drug intake and persistent pain and other physical issues can also play a role in PTSD-related sleeping difficulties. Any combination of these factors may underlie the problems found in any given person.”

“In fact, using too much alcohol can get in the way of restful sleep. Alcohol changes the quality of your sleep and makes it less refreshing. This is true of many drugs as well.”  (Sleep and PTSD: Nat’l Center for PTSD)

While drugs and/or alcohol can make you drowsy, staying asleep is challenging. It’s then easier for things like noise disturbances, nightmares, and anxiety attacks to disrupt restful sleep. When helping those suffering from PTSD, many health advocates recommend having a plan or strategy to prepare for sleep.

These include:

  • Limit substances that contain caffeine
  • Try to set a regular sleep/wake schedule
  • Consider a light nighttime snack
  • Avoid “over-arousal” for at least 2-3 hours prior to sleep (forego heavy meals, strenuous exercise, heated arguments, paying bills and action packed movies).
  • Make your sleeping area as free from distractions as possible

Finally, sudden noises can trigger PTSD. Loud barking, fighting neighbors or anything that can “go bump in the night,” can set off a “fight or flight” reaction that leave heats racing and sleep out of reach. So—please be aware of this leading up to Independence Day. Fireworks, rockets, etc… they make problems worse.

White noise machines are said to be extremely helpful with masking unwanted, disruptive sound because they help your brain tune into one soothing sound that keeps you sleeping. (The ‘LectroFan has a selection of white noises and fan sounds that you can select per your preference, as well as volume control and a timer.)

Most of all, if you are or know someone who suffers from PTSD, there are many support groups and information now available that can help. Just knowing there is someone else “in the trenches” and that you are not alone means a lot. Don’t be shy or too prideful about joining Facebook groups and especially groups in your local community.

Resources:

Alliance: Factsheets: Sleep and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Sleep Problems When You Have PTSD

PTSD Related Sleep Problems Far Different From Insomnia

Post Trauatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Sleep

In PTSD a Good Night’s Sleep Means Feeling Safe

National Support Groups with Local Chapter In Your Area:

Warrior Groups: PTSD Support Groups of America

Love our Vets: PTSD Family Support

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

PTSD Support Groups.com

Wives of PTSD Vets and Military

Social Media Support Groups:

Stand for the Troops: PTSD Support Group

Support Group for Women Coping with PTSD Combat Veteran Family Members

PTSD Support and Recovery

PTSD Support Group: Public