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How to Treat PTSD Nightmares

If you have survived a traumatic experience, you might still develop symptoms of PTSD long after the event has occurred. One of the most common symptoms of PTSD is nightmares about the traumatic event. These intense dreams, which might not follow exactly what happened, still keep you up at night and make it nearly impossible to get quality, restful sleep.

While dealing with unprocessed trauma, you might use substances to help you sleep better, which could lead to addiction. There are ways to treat PTSD nightmares and help you get the rest you deserve.

A Scary Symptom of PTSD

The moment you lay your head on the pillow and close your eyes, you might find yourself flooded with scary images of something horrible that had happened to you. The dreams you are having do not really need to make sense or fit what actually happened.

The bottom line is that even when you try to relax and go to sleep, you are bombarded with reminders of what happened. Experiencing nightmares is unideal, but it is even worse when they are based on real events that you cannot seem to escape from.

These nightmares might cause you to wake up while covered in sweat in the middle of the night. It can be scary and embarrassing, especially if waking up in the middle of the night in terror disturbs your loved ones, too. The only thing you may want is for the nightmares to go away.

Why They Happen

If you are experiencing PTSD-related nightmares, you might feel frustrated, ashamed, and alone. Unfortunately, nightmares are a common symptom of PTSD with 72% reporting these scary dreams. Since it is so common and can disrupt sleep, other PTSD symptoms often become difficult to treat, as a result. Treatment is being developed and tested to help address this roadblock.

Nightmares may often cause you to feel as though you are directly in harm's way. The exact relationship between nightmares and PTSD is still being studied. Some of it could be related to dreams and how they help your brain process memories and information.

Healthy Ways to Cope

If you are not able to treat PTSD right away, you will need healthy coping mechanisms in the meantime. Sleep is essential for your mind and body to function. Lack of sleep can affect your mental and physical health, worsening symptoms of PTSD and other comorbid disorders. Getting a good night's rest is easier said than done, but there are a few ways you can work around these nightmares and get some much-needed rest.

  • Keeping a Regular Sleep Routine. If you are dealing with PTSD nightmares, you might be reluctant to go to sleep. You might be afraid of being exposed to your trauma again the moment you close your eyes. Keeping a regular sleep routine is still essential because it gets your body ready to go to sleep, triggering the sleep chemical melatonin.

  • Limiting Electronics Use Before Bed. The blue light from your phones and TV can make it harder for you to rest at night. It is recommended to turn off devices an hour before bed.

  • Getting up if You Cannot Sleep. If you find yourself struggling to sleep twenty minutes or more after turning off the light, sleep experts recommend getting up and walking around until you feel tired again.

  • Use a White Noise Machine. A great way to stave off anxiety or racing thoughts at night is to use a white noise machine. The constant noise can give you something else to focus on when things feel too quiet.

  • Understand These Symptoms Are Normal. While it might be embarrassing, frustrating, or downright scary that these symptoms are occurring, remember that it is very common for those with PTSD to experience nightmares. It is not something that you can completely control, nor is it something you should blame yourself for. The most you can do is seek PTSD treatment when you are stable and ready.

Therapy Options for PTSD

There are plenty of ways to treat PTSD, many of which Chateau offers. If you are interested in trying these methods out, talk with our team.

  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). This type of therapy involves you recalling moments of trauma, while the therapist directs you using eye movement exercises that help you to reprocess trauma.

  • Behavioral Therapy. Behavioral therapy is an umbrella term that includes many different types of therapy from cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), and aversion therapy, which focus on your actions and possible sources.

  • Exposure Therapy. This therapy helps you become familiar with the source of the PTSD by safely exposing you to your trigger, allowing you to heal by recontextualizing the threat. This type of therapy is only realistic for some traumas, like that caused by an accident or early trauma from childhood.

Waking up in the middle of the night because of a PTSD nightmare is a horrible experience, exposing you to the traumatic experience even in your sleep. This common PTSD symptom can disrupt sleep and leave you feeling anxious and hypervigilant. Lack of sleep can make symptoms of PTSD and other mental health disorders worse. This is why you need to learn how to cope with this symptom and reclaim your sleep schedule. Dealing with this symptom can take time, but with practice and help from your support system, you should finally be able to get a good night's rest. If you are able, consider getting in touch with a trauma-informed therapist who can work with you and help you process and heal from your trauma. Chateau has plenty of trauma-informed opportunities. To learn more about what we offer, and our advice for working through these difficult symptoms, call us today at (435) 222-5225.

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