How Is Sleep Affected by Trauma (post-traumatic stress disorder)

How Is Sleep Affected by Trauma (post-traumatic stress disorder)

Trauma is a major cause of sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation has a negative impact on our health and well-being, and can lead to a number of negative physical and mental health consequences. Sleep deprivation is also associated with a number of mental and emotional disorders, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While trauma has many negative effects on the body, it also affects the brain. This article will help you understand how trauma affects the brain, and what you can do about it. 


Any incident that causes physical, emotional, psychological, or spiritual distress is referred to as trauma.

Both physical and emotional elements can be involved in traumatic events.

  These include, but are not limited to:

  • War (both the experience and injuries sustained during)
  • Natural disasters
  • Divorce
  • Death of a loved one or pet
  • Domestic violence
  • Sexual assault
  • Physical injury (car accidents, physical assault, etc.)
  • Emotional abuse
  • Terrorism

70% of American adults have experienced trauma at some point in their lives. It is possible for trauma to affect anyone directly or indirectly. The people who were directly affected by the traumatic event were the ones who experienced it first-hand. Those who witnessed the event are indirectly affected. Different types of reactions can be elicited by traumatic events, and each one is unique to the individual that experiences the trauma.

The American Psychological Association says that victims of trauma may experience feelings of shock and denial immediately after the event. If the victim goes through the trauma of being kidnapped, it can cause them to experience physical and emotional side effects like insomnia, flashbacks, difficulties with relationships, headaches, nausea, or feelings of helplessness, depression, and fear. Talking to a mental health counselor can help a victim process what has happened to them. They can provide the victim with support during the process.

Risk Factors for PTSD in Adults and Children

The risk factors for developing post-traumatic stress disorder are the same for adults and children, in that it is caused by experiencing or witnessing an event that is perceived to be traumatic. Not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It’s all about the individual’s perception of the event. There are some risk factors for the development of post-traumatic stress disorder in adults:

Age and gender: According to research, the stage of life that a person is in may affect their chances of developing post-traumatic stress disorder. Women are more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder in their early to mid-fifties, while men are more likely to develop it in their mid-forties.

Family history of PTSD: People who have family members who have developed anxiety disorder are more likely to develop it of their own.

History of mental health issues: You are more likely to develop PTSD if you have a history of mental health issues like anxiety or depression.

Multiple traumatic experiences: When someone experiences a traumatic event in the past, such as a car crash or divorce, they are at a higher risk of developing Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after a second traumatic event.

Risk factors for post-traumatic stress disorder are the same for children and adults. The signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in children and teenagers are not the same as those of an adult with the condition. Survivors who don’t suffer from flashbacks may believe that their ability to be aware of their surroundings makes them hyper-vigilant to prevent future trauma. They can express their feelings through play, reliving their traumatic experiences through their toys, rather than talking about them.

How Is Sleep Affected by Trauma

After a traumatic experience, sleep issues are a common problem. The symptoms of insomnia can be linked to the effects of the body’s stress response. Many people have trouble falling asleep, wake up more frequently, and have trouble falling back asleep after a traumatic event.

Sleep architecture can be affected by trauma, which means that it can change how the body moves through sleep cycles and stages. After trauma, brain activity shifts from the conscious mind to the subconscious. Sleep research tells us that REM sleep seems to be the stage most affected by this shift. REM sleep is important for storing memories and processing emotions, and dreams during REM sleep are more fanciful and weird.

Distressing dreams and nightmares are common symptoms of trauma. There are many dreams that survivors have about traumatic events that contain trauma-related emotions, content, and symbols. It is thought that trauma-related dreams are caused by the brain’s fear response and may represent the mind’s attempt at integrating a traumatic experience.

Sleep is essential for a healthy body and mind. When you’re traumatized, sleep issues may occur, which can be distressing. Being able to sleep after a traumatic event can reduce trauma-related memories and make them less distressing, according to research. Targeting sleep problems in the early treatment of trauma may help reduce the risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder.

Sleep Disorders After Trauma

Insomnia is one of the most common sleep issues related to trauma and can be solved on its own by the majority of trauma survivors. People with higher levels of post-traumatic stress and sleep disorders are more likely to experience more severe sleep disorders. Nightmare disorder, periodic leg movement disorder, sleep terrors, and REM sleep behavior disorder are some of the sleep disorders that may develop after trauma.

post-traumatic stress disorder

Symptom of PTSD

Sleep can be affected by trauma, and it can also change the brain.

Insomnia, frequent waking, and nightmares are some of the possible symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

To be diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a person needs to show at least two of six different arousal and activity changes. Those changes include:

  • Self-destructive or reckless behavior
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Sleep disturbances
  • A heightened startle response
  • Hypervigilance
  • Irritability or aggression

How to Cope-up

It can be draining and paralyzing to experience trauma. You might find it difficult to be your usual self and engage in normal daily activities. It’s possible that you have difficulty falling and staying asleep. If you have the assistance of a healthcare professional, you may be able to improve your sleep quality.

You don’t have to cope with trauma all alone. Here are some ways you can support your sleep during times of high stress:

Try mindfulness exercises before bedtime

Deep breathing, meditation, and journaling are practices that will help you relax and let go of your day’s stress, while light yoga can help.

Follow a bedtime ritual

You can include warm-up activities, such as taking a warm bath and listening to relaxing music, getting into comfortable pajamas, using aromatherapy, and turning out all the lights before bedtime, which may keep you grounded and ready for restful sleep.

Practice sleep hygiene

Recommendations that influence your sleep habit and improve sleep quality can be found in sleep hygiene. Keeping your bedroom cool and quiet, limiting alcohol, heavy food intake, and caffeine in the evening time, exercising during the day, and following a regular sleep-Wake time are some of the things that they involve. It is possible that these habits hold up your sleep health during times of distress.

Prioritize rest 

It’s not a good idea to put yourself under pressure to return to work after a traumatizing experience. Follow the body’s signals if it tells you to rest or engage in self-care activities. Doing healthy things that make you feel good will help you recover from these traumatic experiences. Don’t rush recovery. Get support from friends and family.


It is possible to cope with trauma and protect your sleep health through exercise. A study shows that cardiovascular exercises can help with mental health and post-traumatic stress disorder. Walking, yoga, dancing, or jogging are some of the simple physical activities you can participate in.

Seek support from loved ones

It is possible that your loved ones can help you through difficult times. Reach out to your family and friends and let them know how you are feeling. To help you better handle your emotions, it may be a good idea to talk to someone about them. They can also help out by taking on responsibilities you might not be able to handle right now.


Journaling can help you express your feelings, which is very important for recovery. You can use a digital or handwritten journal to process and organize your thoughts, manage your feelings of overwhelm, and reduce stress levels. According to the study, writing can help you manage traumatic symptoms, improve mood, lower blood pressure, support immune function, improve emotional wellbeing, and provide positive physical and mental health outcomes. According to the researchers, writing can be used as a therapy for people experiencing trauma.


Trauma causes stress. Stress can cause your body to go into fight-or-flight mode. When your body is in this mode, it releases adrenaline. This causes your heart rate to increase, which can cause high blood pressure and heart problems. It also causes your muscles to tense up.

Recovery from trauma depends on the type of trauma. Some people will need to see a counselor for a few weeks or months to help them recover.

You may have PTSD if you have nightmares, and you may also have flashbacks.


The brain is a complex system with many different parts, and a traumatic event can trigger a cascade of physiological changes in the body. These changes can affect the function of the brain and the rest of the body, which may lead to a wide range of symptoms. A healthy sleep pattern is essential to the proper functioning of the body and the mind. Sleep is an important part of the healing process, and getting enough good quality sleep can help you recover from traumatic experiences.

If you want to know more about different sleep related disorder check out here.

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