Sleep problems are a common issue for people of all ages, but anyone diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder is
more likely to experience difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Sleep disturbances and nightmares are
common symptoms of PTSD, and these symptoms may even exacerbate other PTSD symptoms and make treatment more difficult.
Note: The content on
is meant to be informative in nature, but shouldnít be taken as medical advice.
Consult with a qualified medical provider before modifying your childís existing sleep routine. If you feel you may
be suffering from any sleep disorder or medical condition, please see a healthcare provider.
Do People With PTSD Have Sleep Problems?
Sleep problems are common with PTSD for a number of reasons.
Itís common for patients with PTSD to feel that they
need to be constantly on the lookout for danger.
This hyper-alertness will often interfere with sleep.
Patients may have trouble relaxing to fall asleep.
They may also wake up easily and have trouble falling
back to sleep.
Negative thoughts and worry can interfere with falling
asleep. Worry may involve typical problems of daily
life, or it can extend to extensive fears about
personal safety or the safety of loved ones.
Sometimes, even worry about being able to fall asleep
can interfere with the ability to sleep.
Self-medication with drugs and alcohol is a common issue for
people experiencing PTSD. Over-consumption of alcohol
can interfere with sleep. Alcohol
also interferes with sleep quality, and people
often wake up feeling tired. Drugs can have a similar
effect on sleep.
PTSD often involves nightmares,
which can disrupt sleep. After waking in the middle of
the night from a nightmare, it may be difficult to get
back to sleep again. Fear may also set in with
repeated nightmares: Some patients begin avoiding
sleep because they donít want to experience
Patients who also experience
physical health issues can have trouble
pain will often interfere with sleep. Digestive
disorders, stomach problems, and reproductive issues
in women are also common complaints. Many people have
trouble falling asleep when they have a medical
Can You Do if You Have Sleep Problems?
If you are experiencing problems falling asleep or staying
asleep at night, you may sleep better if you make some
changes. Many adjustments are minor in nature but can
still have a positive impact. When you make changes,
follow through with the changes for several nights to see
Change Your Sleeping Area
Examine your sleeping
area to make sure itís conducive to restful sleep.
If your bedroom has too much activity, noise, or light,
you may not be able to rest well. Create a quiet and
comfortable sleeping area. Research mattress reviews to
find a mattress that fits your sleep needs. Clinicians
recommend that you use your bedroom for sleeping or sex
only: Do not watch television or listen to the radio in
your bedroom. Block out all light to ensure that the
bedroom is dark. Keep the temperature cool for optimal
sleeping. Some people sleep better with a white noise
machine providing constant background noise, which also
helps to block out other noises.
Keep a Bedtime Routine and Sleep Schedule
sleep schedule with the same bedtime and wake-up time helps
your body acclimate to this schedule. Over time, your body
will naturally be ready for sleep at the same time and be
ready to wake at the same time. Institute a soothing
bedtime routine to get your body ready to sleep. Taking a
warm shower or drinking a cup of decaffeinated tea may
help. Avoid engaging in energizing or stressful activities
before sleep. If light and noise will disturb you, try
wearing earplugs and a mask.
Going to bed at the same time every night can help make falling asleep easier
Try to Relax if You Canít Sleep
If you canít sleep, focus on relaxing instead. You might
get out of bed and engage in quiet reading on the sofa
until you feel ready for sleep. Avoid watching television
or using electronics in this situation because this could
make it even more difficult to sleep. Try focused
relaxation to get your body ready to sleep. Imagine
yourself in a peaceful setting, thinking about
specific details that make you feel relaxed.
Watch Your Activities During the Day
Pay attention to your activities during waking hours to ensure
that youíre not engaging in activities that will
interfere with sleep.
Daily exercise is important for overall health.
However, avoid exercising within two hours of bedtime.
Spend time outdoors in the sunshine every day to
help regulate your waking and sleeping cycles.
or avoid foods and beverages that contain
Avoid alcohol; it may cause sleep disturbances.
Avoid tobacco; nicotine may cause sleep
napping during the day,
especially in the evening.
Limit beverages after dinner so you wonít have to
get up to use the bathroom.
medications that can cause
Talk to Your Doctor
Consult your physician when you experience chronic sleep problems
and disturbances. Anxious thoughts, nightmares, and pain
are common causes of sleep problems, and a physician may
be able to provide assistance. Depending on your symptoms
and your general health condition, a doctor may be able to
prescribe medication to help you sleep. You may also
receive guidance to learn skills that can help you get
and Mental Health: Psychiatric patients with
issues such as anxiety and depression usually also
experience sleep problems, and this is thought to be
due to a strong connection between sleep and mental
Fact Sheet (PDF): Anyone who has experienced a
traumatic event or has lived through a
life-threatening situation can be at risk for
PTSD and PTSD Treatment (PDF): While itís
typical to have strong memories after a traumatic
event, these memories should not persist and interfere
with daily functioning for more than a couple of
Stress Disorder: PTSD patients experience symptoms
that include re-experiencing the trauma, avoiding
triggers, and arousal to the vivid memories.