Sleep Disorders and Its Relation to Trauma

By March 10, 2019 April 15th, 2019 Blog

Many people think that trauma only affects individuals emotionally, however, several other problems can arise from experiencing a traumatic event, such as sleep disorders. When the body is overstimulated, which is what happens during a traumatic event, the brain is flooded with neurochemicals, such as epinephrine and adrenaline, that keep a person awake. These neurochemicals can cause a large variety of sleep problems, including:

  • Flashbacks and troubling thoughts which can make falling asleep difficult.
  • After experiencing a trauma, one may feel the need to maintain a high level of vigilance, which can make sleep difficult.
  • Nighttime and darkness can bring about added anxiety and restlessness.
  • Trauma survivors will often experience nightmares, which can wake you up and make getting back to sleep difficult.
  • Many survivors will turn to alcohol or other drugs to numb the emotional and physical pain following trauma. These substances can not only impact the healing process, and they can also exacerbate sleep problems.

While these may be sleep problems, they are not considered sleep disorders. The main sleeping disorder survivors of trauma tend to experience is insomnia.

 

Insomnia

Insomnia is characterized as the inability to fall and stay asleep. Someone with insomnia will experience at least one of the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Low energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mood disturbances
  • Decreased performance in work or school

There are two different types of insomnia: acute and chronic. Acute insomnia is brief and is often caused due to life circumstances (e.g. inability to fall asleep the night before an exam). Chronic insomnia, on the other hand, lasts at least three nights per week for at least three months. Acute insomnia tends to not require treatment since it does not occur regularly. People who suffer from chronic insomnia typically benefit from some form of treatment.

 

What is Trauma

Trauma is characterized as a deeply distressing or disturbing experience.

Regardless of the type and severity of the trauma, survivors may experience some if not all of the following feelings:

  • Feelings of shock, anger, or fear
  • Feel helpless because you could not prevent the assault
  • Having nightmares or flashbacks about the assault
  • Trouble sleeping and concentration
  • Revengeful thoughts
  • Think that you did something to cause the attack
  • Feel embarrassed about telling your family and friends
  • Feel any or all of the above, whether you were physically injured or not

Overtime, if the trauma persists, specifically for over a month, then the victim may be diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD can develop after a very stressful, frightening or distressing event, or after a prolonged traumatic experience. While not everyone who suffers from an assault and trauma develops PTSD, those who do are by no means weak; PTSD is not a sign of weakness.

There are three main categories of symptoms associated with PTSD which include:

  • Avoiding reminders of the trauma including places, people, thoughts, or other activities that can be associated with the event.
  • Reliving the event through recurring nightmares or other intrusive images which occur randomly at any time. Typically reliving the event will result in extreme emotional or physical reactions such as chills, heart palpitations, or panic when faced with reminders of the event.
  • Being on guard or hyper-aroused at times, including feeling sudden anger or irritability, having difficulty sleeping or a lack of concentration and being overly alert and easily startled.

PTSD when left untreated can lead to a variety of serious symptoms, including:

  • Loneliness: Because PTSD can potentially make a person very difficult to be around and is often undiagnosed. Individuals suffering from PTSD may end up isolated and alone.
  • Anger management issues: For some people, the moments of recurring stress and anxiety lead to outbursts of anger or rage. This can result in child or spousal abuse or even public violence.
  • Severe depression: Serious depression is always a risk with PTSD. Many sufferers may demonstrate suicidal thoughts or actions while in the midst of a PTSD episode.

While these symptoms are serious, they can be corrected and eradicated with proper treatment.

 

Early Intervention and Treatment is Critical

Trauma has the potential to leave lasting scars that have the potential to completely alter your demeanor and character for the rest of your life if left untreated, such as sleep disorders.

Seeking treatment can completely turn your life around after a traumatic event.

Accelerated Resolution Therapy® (ART) is an innovative, evidence-based therapy for both PTS and PTSD, anxiety, depression, stress and other mental health issues. Initially, the therapy was primarily used to help veterans suffering from PTSD. One of the major advantages is the speed at which ART is able to bring relief. Normally, only one to five sessions are needed, not months or years of expensive mental health treatment. Research shows the average is four (4) sessions.

Accelerated Resolution Therapy works by reprogramming the trauma memories that are preventing an individual from enjoying the full life they deserve. The techniques work equally well on bullying victims, combat veterans and others.

Do not let trauma from your past continue to control your life. Contact ART International Training and Research to learn more or to find a therapist near you.