Post-traumatic stress disease (PTSD) is not a rare condition. About 7 or 8 out of every 100 people in the US will have PTSD at some point in their lives, and this ratio is twice as high in people who have served the military forces. When you are in the military, you may see combat, you may have been shot at, seen a friend get shot or seen death. These types of events can lead to PTSD.
PTSD has many different symptoms. People experiencing PTSD may suffer from anxiety, flashbacks, memory problems and other reactions to a traumatic event. Insomnia is especially common between PTSD patients, and 70 percent of civilian patients and 90 percent of combat veterans with PTSD say that can’t get a decent night’s sleep.
Researchers at the Santa Monica-based think tank also found that a lack sleep may also contribute to developing PTSD in soldiers, and that improving the quality and quantity of sleep for members of the U.S. armed forces following deployment could help reduce health problems, including depression and PTSD.
Once home, many military men and women experience sleep problems, which are often overlooked since they are seen as a common reaction to stress and in military people. Sleep disturbances are linked to physical and mental health problems. Sleep problems are often chronic, persisting long after service members return home from combat, with adverse consequences for their reintegration and the readiness and resiliency of the force, according to Rand researchers.
Another study, on the University of California, proves that a good night’s sleep has a beneficial effect on patients with trauma. Even though the subjects examined were rats, the study proved, those subjects with improved REM sleep were better able to remember the difference between safety and danger signals, which again suggest that by treating sleep we may treat PTSD even more efficiently than with other psychological treatments currently used.
These researchers once again confirm the effect of sleep in conditions such as PTSD. The symptoms of PTSD can be hard for the whole body. The insomnia, fatigue, irritability, angry outbursts, concentration problems, and jumpiness have a devastating effect on person’s health.
If you have PTSD, it is very important to take care for your body. That means putting a priority on sleep, exercise, healthy food, and relaxing activities. Sleep deprivation exacerbates PTSD symptoms and increases anger, irritability, and moodiness. In order to avoid these symptoms, you should aim for somewhere between 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
If you have difficulties sleeping here are a number of things you can do to make it more likely that you will sleep well:
Adapt your sleeping area. Too much noise, light, or activity in your bedroom can make sleeping harder. Creating a quiet, comfortable sleeping area can help. In order to teach your body to sleep better, use your bedroom only for sleeping. Use curtains or blinds to block out light and keep your bedroom dark and cool. A bedtime routine and a sleep schedule can help you sleep better. You should also to try to get up at the same time every morning, even if you feel tired. Avoid afternoon naps, and you will be more likely to fall asleep easily when bedtime comes. By setting regular and constant intervals of sleep, you will teach your body and establish an inner balance on when to sleep and when to be awake, similar as teaching this routine in small children.
Create a relaxing bedtime routine. You might want to take a warm shower or bath, listen to soothing music, or drink a cup of tea with no caffeine in it. This will calm your body and prepare it for quality sleep.
If you can’t sleep, you should try to relax and remain in bed. If this doesn’t work either, you can get up and do a quiet activity, such as reading until you feel sleepy.
Your daytime activities can also interfere with your sleep. You should limit alcohol and tobacco intake since they can either keep you awake or wake you up during the night. Cut out or limit what you drink or eat that has caffeine in it, such as coffee, tea, cola, and chocolate. Don’t take medicine that may keep you awake, or make you feel hyper or energized right before bed. Your doctor can tell you if your medicine may do this and if you can take it earlier in the day.
If you are experiencing sleep difficulties or other PTSD-related symptoms, talk to your doctor, and let him know that you have trouble sleeping. There are a number of medications that are helpful for sleep problems in PTSD. Depending on your sleep symptoms and other factors, your doctor may prescribe some medication for you.
Apart from medications, there are other therapies which can help you with insomnia and other PTSD symptoms. The different types of treatment for PTSD include:
Physiological treatment: Cognitive-behavioral therapy or “counseling”, which involves carefully and gradually “exposing” yourself to thoughts and feelings that remind you of the event. This therapy is all about recognizing the thoughts which upset you and to changing the course of your thoughts and your reaction to them. The therapy also involves identifying irrational thoughts about the event—and replacing them with a more balanced picture. Exposure therapy is often used alongside with cognitive therapy and helps you safely face what you find frightening so that you can learn to cope with it effectively. One approach to exposure therapy uses “virtual reality” programs that allow you to re-enter the setting in which you experienced trauma. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) incorporates elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy with eye movements or other forms of rhythmic, left-right stimulation, such as hand taps or sounds. These are thought to work by “unfreezing” the brain’s information processing system, which is interrupted in times of extreme stress. You may try individual therapy, group therapy or both. Group therapy can be beneficial since it can offer a way to connect with others going through similar experiences, with whom you can share your experiences and fears.
Medication, such as antidepressants, antianxiety medications, and others are sometimes prescribed to people with PTSD to relieve secondary symptoms of depression or anxiety. While these medications can help you feeling sad, worried, or on edge, they do not treat the causes of PTSD. Natural stress and anxiety relief supplements can also help calm your mind and thoughts before going to bed. Products like KalmPro while not specifically formulated to stimulate drowsiness, can help in producing a calm, soothing effect throughout your mind and body, thus making it easier to lay to rest.
The symptoms of PTSD can be deeply overwhelming. Recovering from trauma takes time, care and patience for the body to return its equilibrium. Being determined to help yourself, with the support of your loved ones, are the keystones to success and returning your life and feelings under control.