Post-traumatic stress disorder is a common sleep disorder for those who have experienced severe trauma involving grave injury or death, but for the general public PTSD is uncommon. We spoke to Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., M.S., PT, in Wexford, Pennsylvania, for one approach to the medical problems you or your loved one may suffer from when trying to sleep.
If you think you might have post-traumatic stress disorder, use this as a reference point before getting personalized medical advice from your doctor or other accredited sleep expert. --Nana-Adwoa Ofari
Lombardo describes post-traumatic stress disorder as "experiencing a trauma that you experience yourself or that you have experienced vicariously (e.g. watching the 9/11 attacks on TV), and the event was a threat to your life." She explains that PTSD "is not an acute disorder; it is long-term and is accompanied by re-experiencing symptoms which can include flashbacks, nightmares, hyper-arousal... and avoidance." Those who suffer from the disorder tend to push these thoughts out of their minds, which then reappear while they sleep.
Keep A Journal Of The Positives"People with post-traumatic stress disorder avoid thinking about the event that traumatized them," Lombardo says. "Avoidance causes a problem because it creates pressure in the mind... It is imperative to focus on the positives within the situation." She explains that finding the positives does not mean "defining the situation as 'good,'" but rather "finding the benefits that came from it... Who have you met? Who have you gotten to know better? How much strength have you demonstrated? What have you learned?" According to Lombardo, keeping a journal of these positives will help you face the events and take away their control over time.
Implement Relaxation Into Your Daily RoutinePost-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder in which the body and mind are in a state of arousal. Relaxing is vital in order to battle the condition. Lombardo advises that patients perform deep breathing exercises on their own in order to relax: "I suggest listening to a relaxation CD where someone is guiding the session/meditation," she says. "It will be more effective this way."
Create Bedtime RitualsOur bodies can be classically conditioned to respond in certain ways. It is very important to develop bedtime rituals, such as taking a warm shower every night before going to bed. Lombardo says, "Your body will begin to associate the ritual with bedtime, and will start to relax more quickly. Taking a warm shower, listening to relaxing music with the lights dimmed, meditating and reading are all effective bedtime rituals."
Get In The MoodAccording to Lombardo, "Your environment is hugely important... Your sheets don't have to be expensive, but they should be [good] quality." She also suggests that dimming the lights, having a comfortable bed and pajamas and reducing noise levels are essential to set the mood for a good night's rest. She additionally advises patients to turn off electronic screens, as they stimulate the nervous system.
Watch Your Intake of Stimulants Before BedSugars, caffeine, nicotine and alcohol are all substances that can keep you awake. Lombardo reminds us that caffeine can stay in your body for six hours, advising patients to refrain from drinking coffee after lunch and most certainly before bed. "Many believe that drinking alcohol before bed will help with a good night's sleep. While alcohol can help you fall asleep, it will inhibit the quality of the deep stages of rest."
As a clinical psychologist, physical therapist and author of the best-selling book "A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness," Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., helps people around the world have less stress and more happiness, regardless what is going on in their lives. This includes training on how to overcome sleep problems and get a good night's sleep using research-supported behavioral strategies. She has been interviewed and featured by some of today's top media outlets including CNN, Newsweek, MSNBC, NPR, Forbes, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Woman's Day, Glamour, Self and Reader's Digest.
Have you ever suffered from a sleep disorder? What worked for you?