How Can Trauma Affect Sleep?

You’ve had a long day. All you can think about is crawling into bed and getting some much-needed sleep. You close your eyes, but you can’t seem to fall asleep. Despite how tired you are, you can’t seem to stop your brain from overthinking. Hours pass. Soon, you’re gasping for air. Beads of sweat collect on your forehead. You immediately open your eyes and sit up in bed. You tell yourself it was just a dream. Scratch that, it was a nightmare.You look at the clock, and it’s 2:00am. You wonder how you’re going to fall asleep again, especially since it took you so long to get to bed in the first place. The cycle continues.

Sleep is essential. It’s just as important as eating and breathing. Sleep is most known for rest and recovery, but did you know that sleep is also beneficial for processing memories and emotions?

Trauma and Sleep

When dealing with trauma, your sleep can be affected in a negative way. The trauma puts added stress on your body, which triggers a flight, fight, or freeze response. Heightened senses, increased heart rate, and quickened breathing are common responses when dealing with trauma.Trauma can cause a number of sleep disturbances:

  • Nightmares
  • Insomnia
  • Panic Attacks
  • Flashbacks
  • Acting out your dreams, a.k.a. REM (Rapid Eye Movement) Sleep Behavior Disorder

Trauma can be difficult to navigate on its own. It’s even more challenging to navigate when it’s affecting your sleep cycle. Follow these steps to start the process of reclaiming your sleep:

Try Relaxation Exercises

Deep breathing is a great and easy way to engage your body’s natural relaxation response. There are many different breathing techniques out there, so you’ll have to try what works best for you. In the meantime, try out diaphragmatic breathing, or belly breathing:

  • Lie down in bed.
  • Place one hand on your upper chest and one hand on your belly.
  • Breathe in through your nose so your belly pushes against your hand.
  • Tighten your stomach muscles and exhale through pursed lips.
  • Repeat.

In addition to relaxation exercises, you can also work to make your room more relaxing. Start by removing any items that may be triggering. Buy more comfortable bedding. Add a night light if you don’t like the dark. Plants, a white noise machine, or essential oils could help you relax at night too!

Find a Sleep Routine and Schedule

Creating a bedtime routine can help train your brain into recognizing when it’s time for your body to rest. Your routine could consist of the following:

  • Drink a cup of tea.
  • Take a bath or shower.
  • Unplug from any devices.
  • Read a chapter in a book.

In addition to creating a routine to follow each night, try to keep a consistent sleep schedule as well. Falling asleep and waking up at the same time each day can also help your body and brain recognize when it’s time to sleep. Yes, this applies to weekends as well!

Give Yourself Grace

These are just a few tips to try to reclaim your sleep. Keep in mind that healing takes time. What you’re experiencing is completely normal. Trauma can have a huge impact on the quality and quantity of your sleep.One of the best things you can do is reach out to a mental health professional like a therapist or a psychiatrist for help. Trauma can be a lot for someone to try to handle on their own.Heal from the inside out. Serenity Wellness and Counseling Center can help you find answers and guide you to your happier self. Call us today for a free 15 minute phone consultation: 281-944-SWCC!

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