Learn All About Trauma and Trauma-Induced Insomnia
Trauma And Sleep: How Are They Related
In today’s times, it is quite common to experience fatigue or feel sleep-deprived. If you or someone close has gone through a trauma of some sort and are suffering an irregular quality of sleep then the kind of sleep you experience and the trauma might well be related. But this should not be a cause to take undue stress, because help is closer than you could imagine, yes, right in your hands and control.
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How Trauma Affects You
Any experience that has a negative effect on the normal functioning of a person’s well-being and capacity to function well can be categorised as trauma. This encounter could have been experienced by you directly or indirectly and has the potential to affect you psychologically. Trauma can also build up as a result of ongoing stress due to various reasons, be they personal, professional, or otherwise. On the basis of the conclusions of a research conducted, almost 90 percent of the people have experienced trauma at some point of time in their lives. This can have a huge impact in some cases and in others, it can be less traumatic.
Impact Of Trauma On Sleep
One of the first and most common ways in which we as individuals react to trauma can be seen in the quality and pattern of our sleep. While we experience an event that causes trauma or when our brain anticipates trauma the brain reacts to the adversity as a defense mechanism. We experience the release of a cascade of hormones, the muscles become tense, the heart rate increases and the breathing becomes faster. All this returns to normal after the traumatic experience passes. The human body is resilient and very often heals. But, sometimes, delayed reactions occur. These include fatigue, depression, nightmares, and experience of sleep disorders. When a person recalls the traumatic event as part of a dream (nightmare as it would be more likely to be referred to as), then it is known as post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. If you stay awake in bed due to stress, then you could be experiencing insomnia. Difficulty falling asleep, going back to sleep after waking up, or waking up more often at night are some of the symptoms of the same.
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How to Deal with Trauma-Related Insomnia
Sleep issues, most common after having undergone a traumatic experience, can be taken care of in various simple ways if the awareness and will are there.
The practice of meditation, wherein you concentrate on breathing in and breathing out in the correct manner, goes a long way in helping cope with insomnia-induced anxiety or to cope with overwhelming emotions or panic attacks caused by flashbacks. You could do this with or without guided help. This might be a little difficult, to begin with. Even taking time out for it might seem impossible but, with time and effort, it would soon become a part of your daily routine. Once you experience the benefits you reap by meditation, you will wait eagerly for the time slot you would have fixed for this activity.
Meditation is not a case of one size fits all. Some meditate with their eyes open and some with their eyes closed. Some like to do it sitting down and some like to move about. Some people stretch their bodies and some listen to their favourite music. Some people relax their muscles, starting with the head and moving downward. For people who find focusing on the heartbeat and breathing pattern not their cup of tea, trauma-informed meditation is a mix or mindfulness and breathing practices for those who are trauma survivors. If you cannot doze off after 20 minutes of having got into bed to sleep, don’t stress. Insomnia or passing thoughts, whatever the reason for you not being able to go to sleep, it is a good idea to read till you feel sleepy instead of looking at the time in the clock ever so often.
2. Modify your surroundings accordingly
Making the bedroom a favourable place to sleep in is another step you can take to be able to get a good night’s sleep. Maybe the room is too well lit up, or there are other elements in the room that might trigger trauma-related memories, a leaky tap close by, or any such element. Removing the negative elements and adding positive ones go a long way in helping cope with sleeplessness. Cosy bedding, including the mattress, pillows, cushions, sheets, comforter, and just enough light to provide restful comfort will definitely invite sleep.
We usually associate sleep with rest. But that is not entirely correct. Integrating other types of rest, like listening to music, reading a book, taking in a movie, spending time with people with whom you can be yourself and not have to pretend, taking up a hobby, doing something creative, playing a game, taking a walk, exercising, and endless other such activities help a person unwind and release some of the pressure that gets thrown on us constantly by others. It is good too, sometimes, right in the middle of things, take a step back: To have a cool glass of water, to go off screens, to take a break, to integrate a short walk in the break, to call up someone close just to say a hi. This helps us be more in the present during the day or mindful and helps us sleep better at night.
Meditation, a bedtime routine, a comfortable sleep environment, and so on, will definitely help people suffering from trauma-related insomnia but remember that if all this does not work then it is ok to seek professional help. Each traumatic experience is unique and so is the person who experiences it, so there is no one way to handle or cope with it. What is important is to acknowledge it and deal with it and know when to ask for the support of doctors, counsellors, and social workers who are trained in helping others heal from the consequences of a traumatic event.