Sleep Problems – PTSD
How do I get to sleep? If your PTSD is severe and has been ongoing for years, likely you have changed your sleep wake phase cycle. This means that you have created a brain pathway that can look like waking up every hour, or two, or sleeping in the day and not at night. Luckily we can change this through understanding sleep hygiene.
Sleep Hygiene means going to bed at the same time and getting up at the same time no matter what. You will need to be very diligent about this for several weeks. Eventually if you stick to this plan, you will be too tired to stay awake and over time you will change your sleep wake phase cycle.
If you are struggling with intrusive thoughts are flashbacks, then you will need to orientate yourself to the present.
Tricks that help orientate your brain back to the present time are , hang a calendar on your wall by your bed so that you can see what day it is. Practice grounding skills such as 5- 1, five things you see, four things you see, three things you see, two and so on moving to five things you hear, four things you hear, three things you hear, two things you hear and one thing you hear, and five things you feel … etc.
If the flashbacks are severe, use temperature to bring your nervous system back to the present such as, grab an ice cube with a paper towel and hold it in your hand, have a cold or hot shower until you are grounded back into the room. Then distract yourself with soothing, or pleasurable activity such as a game on your phone, or watching a funny comedy until you get sleepy.
Don’t fight it if you can’t sleep. Just get up out of the bed and do something boring unless you are experiencing flashbacks. Wait until you are tired and then go back to bed.
In worst case scenario’s you could try melatonin for 4 to 6 weeks provided you get your Dr. to instruct you on how to take this supplement correctly, or ask for prescription medicine help from physician. Medication can be helpful especially if its temporary while you are getting treatment for your post traumatic symptoms.
Finally, don’t rule out other medical issues such as sleep apnea which is a big contributor to sleep problems. When in doubt speak to your family dr.