No matter how hard you try, it seems impossible to get a good night’s sleep. Drifting off to sleep sounds like a fantasy. And staying asleep through the whole night is just too daunting.The reason is the nightmares connected to your PTSD nightmares that you experience each and every night.
PTSD nightmares jar you, disturb you, and cause you a lot of fear. Maybe these sleep disturbances are also the reasons why you started drinking or using drugs because that at least helps you to fall asleep.
However, you know that substance use has its own unhealthy repercussions. But what can you? It feels like you’re stuck in a vicious cycle of PSTD, nightmares, and insomnia that just doesn’t want to end. Is finding relief even possible?
Yes, it is!
If you desire to find relief from your PTSD nightmares, starting with good sleep hygiene and a routine that helps you to wind down is crucial.
Take a Long Hard Look at Your Bedroom
When you think about it, you really spend a lot of time in your bedroom. Thus, if your goal is to get a good night’s sleep, then your bedroom needs to support that objective. This means keeping or adding things that will promote sleep and getting rid of the things that don’t.
- Ensure that your bed is comfortable and can support your body
- Change the sheets and pillowcases frequently
- Keep your room simple, without a lot of excessive furniture
- Paint the walls a soothing color, such as blue or green
- Hang artwork or pictures that are positive, warm, and comforting
- Sleep in loose and comfortable clothing
- Avoid having lots of electronic devices in your room, such as a TV
If your bedroom is designed to support sleep, then that puts you one step closer to getting a good night’s rest and avoiding PTSD-generated nightmares.
Have a Wind-Down Routine
Another foundational step to promote good sleep is having a routine that supports being in the right mindset. This isn’t simply just changing into your pajamas and jumping into bed. Instead, this starts several hours before you are even heading to the bedroom.
- Start turning off your electronic devices (the exception might be listening to calming music or sounds)
- Avoid last-minute snacking before bedtime
- Read a book or journal
- Light a scented candle, such as lavender, or use aromatherapy
- Drink a warm, comforting, decaffeinated tea
- Do not consume alcohol or other substances
- Go to bed at the same time each night
Be consistent with your sleep routine. That way you are setting yourself up for success and you’re giving yourself the best chance to avoid PTSD nightmares.
What to Do When You Do Have a PTSD Nightmare
When you do have a nightmare related to your PTSD, you don’t have to be helpless.
First, take a moment to get grounded. You can do this by engaging all of your senses after you woke up. Ask yourself what you are experiencing at that moment through your five senses. For example, feel the sheets on your bed, hear the sound of your breathing, smell the fragrance of the detergent you used to wash your sheets, etc. The idea is to help you recognize you are back in reality, not in a nightmare.
Second, get up and do something to shift your focus. This could be drinking warm tea, listening to music, or lighting a scented candle. When you have calmed down and you feel ready, return to bed.
When You Need More Help
Even with all of these measures, you might find that you’re still troubled by PTSD nightmares. Ultimately, it is necessary to resolve the traumatic memories that you hold inside to truly rid yourself of these disturbing dreams because these memories are the source of your nightmares.
That’s where participating in specialized trauma counseling will help. A trauma therapist will able to bring resources such as EMDR and neurofeedback therapy to the table in order to address the problem with your PTSD. With time and treatment, traumatic memories will no longer impact your life, or your sleep.
PTSD nightmares are frightening and disturbing. They can leave you feeling utterly overwhelmed and powerless. But finding relief from your PTSD, nightmares, and sleep disturbances is possible. By practicing healthy sleep habits and participating in therapy, you can finally get the reset you deserve.
Please contact me if you would like to find out more about how PTSD therapy can help.