How Can You Reduce Nightmares From Ptsd
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder sufferers experience nightmares much more frequently than the general population . Generally, nightmares are thought to be a normal reaction to stress, and some clinicians believe they aid people in working through traumatic events but what can you do when they get out of control and are affecting your quality of life?
During sleep, we pass through five stages: 1, 2, 3, 4 and REM sleep. These stages progress cyclically from 1 through REM then begin again with stage 1. A complete sleep cycle takes an average of 90 to 110 minutes. During these cycles, we typically spend more than two hours each night dreaming. Despite dreams being studied for years, scientists do not know much about how or why we dream as its an area of neuroscience and psychology thats notoriously difficult to study. Psychologist Sigmund Freud believed dreaming was a safety valve for unconscious desires, but when researchers began researching sleep and REM more fully in 1953, they discovered that dreams almost always occur during the REM part of sleep.
Most people experience 3 to 5 intervals of REM sleep each night and because these periods become progressively longer during the night, you may find you experience nightmares most often in the early morning hours. During REM sleep, your brain waves exhibit activity fairly similar to when youre awake, and your brain is consuming as much if not more energy than when youre awake.
So how do I stop having nightmares?
How To Help Your Partner With Night Terrors
If your partner struggles with PTSD night terrors, itâs disruptive, damaging, and frightening for both of you. The best thing you can do for them is to get them into treatment. PTSD does not go away without professional support. If you can get your partner good treatment, night terrors will eventually subside, along with other symptoms.
As your partner goes through treatment, there are several other things you can help them with to manage night terrors and reduce their frequency:
Why Do We Have Nightmares
When we have experiences of any kind, neurons fire in the brain, and that group of neurons link together, creating a neuronal network that is the memory.
That network links into other networks that are similar in nature, or are related to adaptive experiences we have had in the past creating patterns for what we know to be true.
When we dream at night, our brain is doing its work of organizing the events of the day, and storing those experiences in our narrative. It is linking those neuronal networks into other experiences we have had, and other patterns we have for looking at the world. Sleep is imperative to help us come to adaptive resolutions about the events we experience day to day.
When an traumatic experience is highly charged, causing a surge of adrenaline and stress hormones, the network of neurons that fire may get stuck in the brain in a way that keeps it from linking into other adaptive networks. As a result, the brain perpetuates a cycle of trying to make sense of the experience. This creates flashbacks or nightmares. The brain cannot link that experience into the rest of the system due to the high charge of the material so it just keeps running through the experience over and over again. The network is locked out of patterns we know to be true in other situations.
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Are You Suffering From Non
Whether you served in combat or not, its important to research the symptoms of PTSD. Knowing the symptoms in advance will help you if you begin to find yourself having trouble adjusting back to daily life after your time spent serving in the military.
Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in military servicemembers include:
- Nightmares, flashbacks, or even vivid memories of the traumatizing event or events
- Feelings of numbness, distance, or isolation from others
- Loss of interest in hobbies or daily life
- Feeling tense or on guard at all times, an inability to relax
- Difficulty concentrating or sleeping
- Jumpiness or being easily startled
- Avoiding people, places, or things that remind you of the traumatizing event
- Drinking or using drugs to avoid the memories of the event
- Considering harming yourself or others
- Working constantly to avoid memories
These symptoms may keep the affected veteran from holding down a full-time job, or even leave them unable to work at all. Relationships with family and freinds may deteriorate, leaving the veteran feeling more isolated and less able to seek help. Non-combat PTSD and its effects are very real, and seeking treatment is essential to recovering your ability to function in daily life. Its important to look for and receive the care you need, and no military servicemember should ever feel shame when applying for VA disability due to PTSD.
The Impact Of Nightmares On Ptsd
Nightmares are considered a central feature of PTSD. While a generic nightmare may feel extreme and life-threatening, it is usually unrelated to actual events. PTSD nightmares, however, are usually directly related to a previously experienced, traumatic event. For veterans, an example of a PTSD nightmare usually involves the replaying of traumatic events they witnessed or took part in. Similar to civilians who suffer from PTSD, their nightmares could be a replay of the traumatic event, such as physical abuse or violence.
One sleep therapist described what PTSD nightmares are like based on the experience of their clients. They involved a replay of traumatic and vivid images, such as being knocked over by blown up body parts of a close friend, seeing the face of a person they killed in battle, or seeing the same image over and over again, such as what occurred with many people who witnessed the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
The trauma of reliving these nightmares causes many to dread or fear sleep. The avoidance of sleep in combination with an already inefficient sleep cycle causes many to become irritable and affects family, professional and social life. In one study, the risk of becoming suicidal or having suicidal thoughts was three times more likely in PTSD sufferers. With the addition of nightmares, individuals can be made to feel defeated and hopeless, contributing to the risk for suicidal ideation.
Working With A Professional
What Are Common Themes In Bad Dreams
According to psychology researcher Geneviève Robert, common nightmare themes are death, health concerns, and threats. She adds that men tend to have more disaster-related scenarios such as floods, earthquakes, and war. However, womens narratives are typically centered around interpersonal conflicts.
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Can You Have A Lucid Nightmare
It is possible to experience a lucid nightmare, however, the good news is that lucid nightmares are really unusual to happen.
Most of the lucid dreamers are not coming across any terror at all.
The thing is that, often, if we shift a lucid dream into a nightmare, we lose awareness and control, even if had it before.
Similar to any nightmares, the chances to experience it is higher in the moments where youre particularly stressed.
Also, if you have experienced a trauma of any kind, you might also find yourself in lucid nightmares.
On the other hand, in one study, college students reported that realizing they were dreaming in a nightmare helped them feel better about 60% of the time.
Lucidity was seven times more likely to make nightmares better than worse.
So, when you have a nightmare, the possibly unrealistic and fantastic events might spark lucidity, which will help you to actually overcome the nightmare!
Does Imagery Rehearsal Therapy Carry Any Risks
As mentioned, IRT involves minimal exposure, and therefore it is an extremely safe nightmare treatment method. At no point during the treatment will the therapist ask you to relive a trauma or a nightmare. That said, imagery exercises may unearth negative results in some patients.
In this regard, I have to note that:
- For patients with PTSD, negative imagery carries increased risks. Such patients should stop the exercises as soon as they conjure up such images.
- The activation of the imagery system should take a gradual course. Patients such ease into the imaging flow, even if they show affinity and curiosity towards the process.
- It is important to teach patients how to handle negative imagery before more consistent exercises commence.
- Patients should bear in mind that some of the unpleasant imagery they may experience stems from learned behaviors, rather than stress-triggered psychological processes.
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Rewrite The Ptsd Nightmares
Imagery Rehearsal Treatment is considered a cognitive-behavioral treatment. Basically, a therapist helps the nightmare sufferer “rescript” their nightmares while awake. Dr. Barry Krakow, director of the PTSD Sleep Clinic at Maimonides Sleep Arts and Sciences Center in Albuquerque, N.M., teaches trauma victims to rehearse non-distressing, detailed endings to their dreams. Noting, it significantly helps reduce the frequency and intensity of PTSD-related nightmares.
Using Lucid Dreams To Escape The Reality
Escapism is intentional detachment and distraction from the real world.
If you use lucid dreaming to escape from the real world, cant harm you.
Escapism is healthy if it is used in the norms.
However, if you are doing it too much, it can be harmful to your productivity and personal growth.
The only thing you should be careful if you use lucid dreaming to escape the reality and enjoy yourself is simply not letting it go too far.
Otherwise, you might end up dissatisfied with your real life, and to literally start living only in your dreams, by putting all of your energy and goals towards the fantasy world in your head.
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Speak With A Psychotherapist
Getting help from a trained professional can be a game-changer. But finding the right psychotherapist can be difficult. I had to fire the first psychotherapist I saw. After one appointment I left the office feeling more scared than before I had entered. Avoid going to free services because they often dont attract the best psychotherapists.
I found the best person to help me by getting admitted to the hospital and being referred to the hospitals sexual assault unit. The psychotherapist in that division was hired by the hospital. Her role involved going to court with survivors, helping survivors through their trauma, using CBT therapy and various other techniques to help survivors deal with their trauma.
At the time, I couldnt afford a psychotherapist, I was a student and I had just gotten fired from my job. So I was able to fill out a form that allowed me to see her for free. But she did have a fee for other patients. Keep in mind that Canada does have free healthcare. However, they may be affordable services if you dont have the budget to get professional help for your PTSD nightmares.
What Are Night Terrors
Some people with PTSD experience night terrors, also known as sleep terrors. Night terrors are fairly common in children but not in adults, but trauma can cause them. During a night terror, a person appears to awaken and scream or shout in terror. Most of the time, they are not actually awake.
Night terrors may be accompanied by sleepwalking. They can cause a racing pulse, flushed skin, dilated pupils, sweating, and kicking and thrashing in bed. Someone in a night terror will be difficult to awaken. They may not have any memory of it the next day.
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Why Do We Have Bad Dreams As Kids
Children can start having nightmares from a very early age, though it is thought that they are most vulnerable to this issue between the ages of 3 and 6, when their brains go through an accelerated period of development, which goes hand-in-hand with the development of fear and imagination.
As its obvious, those are indeed all the right ingredients for nightmares to blow up. As many as 50% of the children falling into this age group are thought to have problems with bad dreams, and for some of these kids, the problem can be quite debilitating.
In many cases, childrens nightmare problems negatively impact the sleep quality of their parents too.
While the triggers are mostly the same as listed above , researchers have spotted a genetic factor in childhood nightmare problems too. Around 7% of children who have a family history of nightmares go on to have problems associated with bad dreams themselves.
Children with depression and mental retardation have more nightmares, and fevers can be a major trigger for some too .
How To Manage Ptsd Nightmares At Home
If you are processing through the phase on your own and confident enough to deal with it firmly, there are some ways to stop PTSD nightmares. Even though we recommend you to see a professional for PTSD treatment, there are some steps that you must try for yourself. You are stronger than you think, so go ahead.
1.Create A Safe & Cozy Place To Sleep
Even though a lot of people will tell you to change your place of sleeping for a few days or invite you to different places and you can do so for a day or two. But you cannot sleep in other places for the rest of your life, right? So, its better if you form a safe place in your home and ask someone to join in for a few days. It feels better when you have a few people around you.
2. Listen To Your Body
Always remember, the smallest things that your body loves to enjoy must remain in continuation. Your mind might not want to enjoy a small chit-chat session with your friends or be involved in an intimate relationship with your partner, but this is what your head is saying. To heal yourself overall and deal with PTSD nightmares, you must listen to what your body is asking you. However, make sure that you are not following the path of drugs or overconsumption of alcohol. Love your body and your mind will reflect with beauty.
3. Dont Force Yourself To Sleep
4. Follow Healthy Ways To Keep Yourself Engaged
5. Bring A Change In Your Bedtime Routine
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How To Stop Nightmares & Bad Dreams
For some unfortunate people, sleep is not something to look forward to because that is when they are confronted with unpleasant and upsetting dreams, which can be extremely vivid, and sometimes even become full-fledged nightmares. Read on to learn how to stop nightmares and bad dreams naturally, without resorting to pharmaceuticals.
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Nightmare disorder affects approximately 4% of adults, however bad dreams may be a lot more common.
Night after night of losing sleep due to bad dreams can result in a state of exhaustion and even depression, significantly impairing quality of life.
In this article, I explore the various treatment options both natural and medical that can help prevent and treat bad dreams.
Keep A Dream Journal And/or Glossary Of Common And Recurring Symbols
Look for repetitive people, places, and objects. Also, consider the nightmares emotions and conflict continually at play. As well as, determine whether anything meaningful is happening. Surprisingly, you may discover that you and a therapist can gather enough information to help you understand and resolve key emotional challenges. In the hope that it may help enough to alleviate the nightmares.
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What Causes Ptsd Nightmares
Nightmares that result from PTSD are different than typical nightmares. This is because PTSD symptoms all occur as a result of a specific traumatic event in a person’s life. While nightmares that aren’t related to PTSD can be about anything, PTSD nightmares almost always include some aspect of the specific traumatic event that caused the disorder to develop.
Because I experienced multiple traumatic events over the course of my childhood, my PTSD nightmares are a little more complex. Even so, the things I dream about night after night all relate to my past in some way.
Stress is also a common cause of nightmares. It’s normal to have bad dreams when you have a big exam or important project looming at school or work. Because stress is also a core symptom of PTSD, it’s natural that people with PTSD would experience more nightmares than those without.