"Sharing can be a way of healing. Grief and loss can isolate,
anger even alienate. Shared with others, emotions unite
as we see we aren't alone. We realize others weep with us."
~Susan Wittig Albert

Through our writing, we walk out of the darkness into the light
together, one small step at a time, recording history, educating
America, and we are healing.
~CJ/Todd Dierdorff

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sleep and PTSD

I've often wondered, had Doug returned from Vietnam, if he would have suffered from PTSD.  I'm sure he would have.  He was a medic and he was there.

I've decided I want to learn what I can about PTSD and, since several of you already mentioned problems with sleeping, I decided to start there.  ~CJ

Reprinted from an article by The National Center for PTSD

Many people have trouble sleeping at times. This is even more likely, though, if you have PTSD. Trouble sleeping and nightmares are only two symptoms of PTSD.

Why do people with PTSD have sleep problems?

They may be "on alert." Many people with PTSD may feel they need to be on guard or "on the lookout," to protect him or herself from danger. It is difficult to have restful sleep when you feel the need to be always alert. You might have trouble falling asleep, or you might wake up easily in the night if you hear any noise.

They may worry or have negative thoughts. Your thoughts can make it difficult to fall asleep. People with PTSD often worry about general problems or worry that they are in danger. If you often have trouble getting to sleep, you may start to worry that you won't be able to fall asleep. These thoughts can keep you awake.

They may use drugs or alcohol. Some people with PTSD use drugs or alcohol to help them cope with their symptoms. 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.

They may have bad dreams or nightmares. Nightmares are common for people with PTSD. Nightmares can wake you up in the middle of the night, making your sleep less restful. If you have frequent nightmares, you may find it difficult to fall asleep because you are afraid you might have a nightmare.

They may have medical problems. There are medical problems that are commonly found in people with PTSD such as chronic pain, stomach problems, and pelvic-area problems in women. These physical problems can make going to sleep difficult.

What can you do if you have problems?

There are a number of things you can do to make it more likely that you will sleep well:

Change your sleeping area. Too much noise, light, or activity in your bedroom can make sleeping harder. Creating a quiet, comfortable sleeping area can help. Here are some things you can do to sleep better:
  • Use your bedroom only for sleeping and sex.
  • Move the TV and radio out of your bedroom.
  • Keep your bedroom quiet, dark, and cool. 
  • Use curtains or blinds to block out light. 
  • Consider using soothing music or a "white noise" machine to block out noise.
  • Keep a bedtime routine and sleep schedule
  • Having a bedtime routine and a set wake-up time will help your body get used to a sleeping schedule. You may want to ask others in your household to help you with your routine.
  • Don't do stressful or energizing things within two hours of going to bed.
  • 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.
  • Use a sleep mask and earplugs, if light and noise bother you.
  • Try to get up at the same time every morning, even if you feel tired. That will help to set your sleep schedule over time, and you will be more likely to fall asleep easily when bedtime comes. On weekends do not to sleep more than an hour past your regular wake-up time.
  • Try to relax if you can't sleep
  • Imagine yourself in a peaceful, pleasant scene. Focus on the details and feelings of being in a place that is relaxing.
  • Get up and do a quiet activity, such as reading, until you feel sleepy.
  • Watch your activities during the day
Your daytime habits and activities can affect how well you sleep. Here are some tips:
  • Exercise during the day. Don't exercise within two hours of going to bed, though, because it may be harder to fall asleep.
  • Get outside during daylight hours. Spending time in sunlight helps to reset your body's sleep and wake cycles.
  • Cut out or limit what you drink or eat that has caffeine in it, such as coffee, tea, cola, and chocolate.
  • Don't drink alcohol before bedtime. Alcohol can cause you to wake up more often during the night.
  • Don't smoke or use tobacco, especially in the evening. Nicotine can keep you awake.
  • Don't take naps during the day, especially close to bedtime.
  • Don't drink any liquids after 6 p.m. if you wake up often because you have to go to the bathroom.
  • 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.
Talk to your doctor

If you can't sleep because you are in pain or have an injury, you often feel anxious at night, or you often have bad dreams or nightmares, talk to your doctor.

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. There are also other skills you can learn to help improve your sleep.

**This hit home ... I've had sleep issues for years and years.  Can a Vietnam War widow also have symptoms of  PTSD?  I would love any feedback.  Thank you. ~CJ

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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  1. From Facebook:

    CJ -
    I am not a psychologist, but I am a trauma survivor, as are you. In the early days after my son's death, I wrote during those sleepless hours. When I read that journal now - 12 years later - it looks like I was searching for a reason he died. Something to ease the grief and make it acceptable.

    In the last 10 years I have faced 4 more trauma deaths of precious family and a close family friend. I don't sleep more than an hour without waking.

    Do I think you could be working through PTSD. Absolutely I do.
    Doris Bush Turner Hunt

  2. Thank you so much for your response, Doris. I'm so sorry for your losses. I appreciate what you have and are still going through.

    Thank you for your honesty and for validation of what I thought, too -- yes, I do believe I have been working through PTSD, although of a far different, far lesser degree than what these Vietnam Vets know.
    Hugs from your friend, CJ

  3. From Facebook:

    You are welcome. Thank you for the hugs! Go at your own pace. A good book - "Trauma, The Pain That Stays" by Robert Hicks. Also, "Don't Take My Grief Away" by Doug Manning. Blessings to you.

  4. Thank you, Doris, I will take it at my own pace -- thanks, too for the book titles. I'll check them out. Blessings to you, too, and a Happy New Year!

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