Stop PTSD from Stealing Your Sleep: 6 Proven Strategies for Rest

Posted on: , Updated on:
Sleep Disorders
On this article you will find

There is a strong connection between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and sleep disorders.

Many individuals with PTSD experience significant disruptions in their sleep.

This can worsen their overall well-being and quality of life.

How are PTSD and sleep disorders related?

Here are some ways in which PTSD and sleep disorders are related:


Insomnia is a common sleep disorder among individuals with PTSD.

The intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and hyperarousal associated with PTSD can make it challenging to fall asleep or stay asleep, leading to chronic insomnia.


Nightmares are a prevalent symptom of PTSD.

People with PTSD may experience vivid, distressing dreams related to their traumatic experiences, which can cause frequent awakenings throughout the night and disturb their sleep patterns.

Sleep Disruptions

Individuals with PTSD often have disrupted sleep architecture, characterized by frequent awakenings, fragmented sleep, and lighter, less restorative sleep.

They may spend more time in lighter sleep stages and experience less time in deep, restorative sleep.

Daytime Sleepiness

Sleep disturbances in PTSD can result in excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue.

This can impact daily functioning, concentration, and overall energy levels.

Sleep-Related Disorders

PTSD can also increase the risk of developing other sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and periodic limb movement disorder.

These conditions can further disrupt sleep and exacerbate the symptoms of PTSD.

The relationship between PTSD and sleep disorders is bidirectional and complex.

Sleep disturbances can worsen the symptoms of PTSD, including anxiety and emotional distress, while the symptoms of PTSD can contribute to sleep disturbances.

Managing both PTSD and sleep disorders often requires a comprehensive approach involving therapy, medication (if necessary), and sleep hygiene strategies to promote better sleep quality.

Why are they related?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and sleep disorders are often related due to the significant impact that trauma can have on an individual’s mental and emotional well-being.

Here are several reasons why PTSD and sleep disorders are linked:


Individuals with PTSD often experience ongoing hyperarousal

which is a heightened state of alertness and vigilance.

This hyperarousal can interfere with the ability to relax and fall asleep, leading to insomnia and other sleep disturbances.

Nightmares and Flashbacks

PTSD can cause vivid nightmares and intrusive memories known as flashbacks.

These disturbing and distressing experiences can disrupt sleep patterns, causing frequent awakenings and difficulty returning to sleep.

Increased Anxiety

PTSD is characterized by heightened anxiety levels.

Anxiety can make it challenging to unwind and enter a relaxed state conducive to sleep, leading to insomnia and fragmented sleep.


Individuals with PTSD often have hypervigilance, constantly being on high alert for potential threats.

This hypervigilance can make it difficult to feel safe and let go, which can further disrupt sleep patterns.

Physical Discomfort

Symptoms of PTSD, such as muscle tension, headaches, and chronic pain, can make it uncomfortable to find a comfortable sleeping position, leading to sleep disturbances and difficulty falling asleep.

How to recognize the pattern?

Recognizing the pattern that makes PTSD and sleep disorders related involves understanding the underlying connections between the two.

Here are a few key aspects to consider:

Increased Arousal

PTSD is often characterized by heightened arousal and hypervigilance, making it difficult to relax and fall asleep.

Sleep disturbances like insomnia, frequent awakenings, and nightmares are common symptoms of PTSD.

Hyperarousal at Bedtime

Individuals with PTSD may experience an increase in anxiety and intrusive thoughts as bedtime approaches.

The fear of potential nightmares or reminders of traumatic events can make it challenging to initiate sleep.

Trauma-Related Nightmares

PTSD can lead to vivid and distressing nightmares related to past traumatic experiences.

These nightmares can be so intense that they disrupt the sleep cycle, causing fear and anxiety upon waking.

Sleep Fragmentation

sleep disorders in PTSD often result in fragmented sleep, with frequent awakenings throughout the night.

This fragmented sleep can lead to further fatigue and impaired daytime functioning.

Fear of Sleep and Avoidance

Due to the association between sleep and nightmares or anxiety, individuals with PTSD may develop a fear of sleep and avoid it altogether.

This fear can perpetuate sleep disturbances and contribute to a disrupted sleep-wake cycle.

Impact on Sleep Architecture

Research suggests that PTSD can alter sleep architecture, including decreased REM sleep and disruptions in deep sleep stages.

These changes can further contribute to sleep problems and impact overall sleep quality.

Understanding the relationship between PTSD and sleep disorders highlights the need for comprehensive treatment approaches.

How to manage?

Managing sleep disorders with PTSD can be challenging, but with the right strategies, you can improve your sleep quality and overall well-being.

Here are some detailed tips to help manage sleep disorders associated with PTSD:

1.  Establish a regular sleep schedule

Stick to a consistent bedtime and wake-up time, even on weekends.

This helps regulate your body’s internal clock and promotes better sleep.

Here’s how it can help with sleep disorders:

  • Promotes Consistency: A regular sleep schedule helps synchronize the body’s internal clock, known as the circadian rhythm. Going to bed and waking up at consistent times each day trains the body to anticipate sleep and wakefulness, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up at desired times.
  • Enhances Sleep Quality: Consistency in sleep patterns can improve the quality of sleep. Having a set bedtime routine and sticking to it can signal to the body that it’s time to wind down, promoting relaxation and better sleep overall.
  • Improves Sleep Efficiency: When individuals with PTSD or sleep disorders establish a regular sleep routine, they are more likely to experience increased sleep efficiency. This means spending a higher percentage of time in bed asleep rather than lying awake or experiencing fragmented sleep.
  • Regulates Sleep-Wake Cycles: Regular sleep schedules help regulate the body’s natural sleep-wake cycles. This can improve the timing and duration of sleep, leading to a more refreshed and balanced feeling upon waking.
  • Reduces Sleep Disruptions: By sticking to a consistent sleep schedule, individuals with PTSD and sleep disorders can minimize external factors that can disrupt sleep, such as late-night activities, excessive screen time, or irregular sleep patterns.
  • Supports Overall Well-being: Establishing a regular sleep schedule not only promotes better sleep but also positively impacts overall well-being. Restorative sleep is crucial for physical and mental health, and maintaining a consistent sleep routine can contribute to improved mood, cognitive functioning, and overall quality of life.

2. Create a relaxing bedtime routine

Engage in calming activities before bed, such as reading a book, taking a warm bath, or practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation.

Establishing a routine signal to your body that it’s time to wind down.

Here’s how it help with sleep disorders:

  • Promotes better sleep: A consistent and calming bedtime routine helps signal to your body that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep. This can aid in falling asleep faster, improving sleep quality, and reducing sleep disturbances common in PTSD and related sleep disorders.
  • Reduces anxiety and hyperarousal: PTSD often involves heightened anxiety and hyperarousal, which can make it difficult to relax and sleep. Following a relaxing bedtime routine can help calm the nervous system, decrease anxiety levels, and promote a sense of safety and comfort.
  • Enhances sleep hygiene: Establishing a regular routine reinforces good sleep hygiene practices. This includes setting consistent sleep and wake times, avoiding stimulating activities before bed, creating a comfortable sleep environment, and engaging in relaxation techniques that promote sleep, such as deep breathing, meditation, or listening to soothing music.
  • Provides a sense of control and stability: PTSD can disrupt feelings of control and safety. By creating a predictable and soothing bedtime routine, individuals with PTSD regain a sense of control over their sleep patterns, promoting a feeling of stability and security.
  • Supports overall well-being: Adequate and restful sleep is crucial for physical and mental health. By prioritizing a relaxing bedtime routine, individuals with PTSD can improve their overall well-being, including mood, cognitive function, and daytime functioning.
  • Ensure a comfortable sleeping environment: Make your bedroom conducive to quality sleep. Keep the room dark, quiet, and at a cool temperature. Use comfortable bedding and invest in a supportive mattress and pillow.


3. Limit exposure to electronics before bed

The blue light emitted by electronic devices can interfere with sleep.

Avoid screens, such as smartphones, tablets, or laptops, for at least one hour before bedtime.

Here’s how it helps sleep disorders:

  • Minimizing Mental Stimulation: Electronics such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops emit blue light, which can suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. By avoiding electronics before bed, individuals can reduce mental stimulation, allowing their bodies to prepare for sleep.
  • Promoting Relaxation: Engaging with electronic devices before bed can increase mental arousal and stress levels, which can hinder the ability to relax and fall asleep. Limiting electronics helps create a calm and conducive environment for relaxation, promoting better sleep quality.
  • Reducing Anxiety Triggers: Individuals with PTSD often experience heightened anxiety levels. Electronics, such as social media platforms, news websites, or triggering content, can increase anxiety and contribute to sleep disturbances. Avoiding exposure to potentially distressing information before bed can help decrease anxiety levels and promote a more peaceful sleep.
  • Establishing a Bedtime Routine: Limiting electronics before bed can be part of a bedtime routine that signals to the body and mind that it’s time to unwind and prepare for sleep. Engaging in activities like reading a book, practicing relaxation techniques, or taking a warm bath instead of using electronic devices can facilitate a smoother transition to sleep.
  • Improving Circadian Rhythm: Exposure to artificial light from electronics before bed disrupts the body’s natural circadian rhythm, making it more challenging to fall asleep and wake up at desired times. Limiting electronics helps align the body’s internal clock with natural light-dark cycles, promoting healthier sleep patterns.

4.  Avoid stimulating substances

Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, especially close to bedtime.

These substances can disrupt sleep and exacerbate symptoms of anxiety.

Here’s How sleep disorders:

  • Limiting Caffeine: Caffeine is a stimulant that can interfere with sleep. Avoid consuming coffee, tea, energy drinks, or other caffeinated beverages in the evening. Opt for decaffeinated options instead.
  • Alcohol and Sedatives: While alcohol and sedatives may induce drowsiness initially, they can disrupt the sleep cycle, leading to poor quality sleep. It’s advisable to avoid alcohol and sedatives before bed.
  • Nicotine: Nicotine, found in cigarettes and other tobacco products, is a stimulant that can interfere with both falling asleep and staying asleep. Refrain from using nicotine-containing products close to bedtime.
  • Electronic Devices: The blue light emitted by electronic devices like smartphones, tablets, and computers can interfere with the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. Avoid using electronic devices for at least an hour before bedtime.

5.  Engage in regular physical activity

Regular exercise can contribute to better sleep.

Engage in moderate-intensity exercises during the day, but avoid vigorous activity close to bedtime as it may interfere with falling asleep.

Here are some ways that regular exercise can help with sleep disorders:

  • Stress Management: Physical activity is known to reduce stress and promote relaxation. Regular exercise can help individuals with PTSD manage their stress levels, as it triggers the release of endorphins (also known as “feel-good” hormones) in the brain. This can result in improved mood and a better ability to cope with stressors, reducing the impact of PTSD symptoms.
  • Sleep Regulation: Exercise can have a positive effect on sleep quality and regulation. Regular physical activity can help regulate circadian rhythms, improve sleep duration, and enhance sleep quality. This is especially beneficial for individuals with sleep disorders, as exercise can promote deeper and more restful sleep.
  • Anxiety and Depression Reduction: Both PTSD and sleep disorders are often accompanied by symptoms of anxiety and depression. Studies have shown that exercise can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, potentially easing the burden of these conditions for individuals with PTSD and sleep disorders.
  • Cognitive Improvement: Regular physical activity has been linked to improved cognitive function and memory. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals with PTSD, as it may aid in the processing and management of traumatic memories.
  • Social Engagement and Emotional Support: Participating in exercise activities, such as group fitness classes or team sports, can provide opportunities for social interaction and emotional support. This can help individuals with PTSD feel connected, reduce feelings of isolation, and foster a sense of belonging.

6.  Create a worry journal

If racing thoughts keep you awake, keep a journal by your bedside.

Write down any thoughts or worries that arise before bed to help clear your mind and reduce anxiety.

Here’s how it can assist with sleep disorders:

  • Increased self-awareness: A worry journal allows individuals to identify and record specific worries or anxious thoughts that may be contributing to their PTSD symptoms or sleep difficulties. This helps to bring awareness to recurring patterns and triggers.
  • Externalizing thoughts: By transferring worries from the mind onto paper, a worry journal allows individuals to externalize their thoughts. This can provide a sense of relief and help prevent rumination or overthinking which often disrupts sleep.
  • Identifying triggers: Through regularly writing in a worry journal, individuals can start recognizing common triggers for their anxiety or sleep difficulties. This understanding can assist in developing coping strategies or seeking professional support to address the underlying issues.
  • Problem-solving: A worry journal can serve as a platform to brainstorm potential solutions or coping mechanisms for identified concerns. This can empower individuals to take action and actively work towards managing their symptoms and improving sleep quality.
  • Tracking progress: Consistently writing in a worry journal allows individuals to track their progress over time. They can reflect on changes in their worry patterns, evaluate the effectiveness of coping strategies, and note improvements in sleep quality. This process can provide motivation and a sense of accomplishment.


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and sleep disturbances are closely intertwined, and understanding their relationship is crucial for effectively managing the impact on individuals’ well-being. PTSD, a psychological condition resulting from experiencing or witnessing traumatic events, can significantly disrupt sleep patterns, leading to various sleep disorders.

The negative impact of sleep disturbances in PTSD is far-reaching.

It can further exacerbate the symptoms of PTSD, including heightened anxiety, irritability, and difficulty concentrating, making the path to healing and recovery more challenging.

Conversely, addressing sleep problems can contribute to overall improvement in PTSD symptoms.

Through research and clinical insights, several powerful strategies have emerged to help individuals with PTSD navigate sleep difficulties.

These include implementing sleep hygiene practices, establishing calming bedtime routines, exploring therapeutic approaches like cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), and sometimes utilizing medication options.

It is essential to recognize that each person’s experience with PTSD and sleep disorders is unique, requiring personalized approaches to treatment.

Seeking guidance from mental health professionals who specialize in trauma-related issues can provide valuable support and guidance on the journey to better sleep and overall well-being.

By addressing sleep disturbances in the context of PTSD, individuals may experience enhanced quality of life, improved mental health, and increased resilience.

Together, with a comprehensive approach that addresses both PTSD and sleep, it is possible to promote healing, restore sleep patterns, and ultimately improve overall health outcomes for those affected by this complex condition.


How does PTSD affect sleep?

PTSD can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to difficulties falling asleep, nightmares, and frequent awakenings.

What are the common sleep disturbances associated with PTSD?

Sleep disturbances commonly seen in PTSD include insomnia, night sweats, nightmares, and sleep apnea.

Can untreated PTSD cause sleep problems?

Yes, untreated PTSD can contribute to chronic sleep problems, worsening the overall quality of sleep.

How can sleep disturbances be managed in individuals with PTSD?

Managing sleep disturbances in PTSD may involve therapy, lifestyle changes, trauma-focused treatments, and medication options.

What are some strategies to improve sleep quality for individuals with PTSD?

Establishing a consistent sleep routine, creating a soothing sleep environment, practicing relaxation techniques, and avoiding stimulants can help improve sleep quality.

Can therapy help with PTSD-related sleep disturbances?

Yes, therapy approaches like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) or exposure therapy can effectively address sleep disturbances in individuals with PTSD.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 0 / 5. Vote count: 0

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

As you found this post useful...

Follow us on social media!

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?

Follow us on Google News

Related Articles


PTSD and Depression: How Are They Related?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression are two common mental health conditions that can affect anyone who has experienced a traumatic event. Trauma can be defined as an event that …

Read the article icon left
loved one

5 Ways to Help a Family Member or Friend Cope with PTSD

Discover five tried methods to support a loved one coping with PTSD. Explore strategies for providing support in their journey towards healing.

Read the article icon left
PTSD and Relationships

The PTSD Relationship Challenge: Can You Make Love Last?

PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is a mental health condition that can develop in individuals who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. PTSD can affect anyone, regardless …

Read the article icon left
icon top