How to Cope With Night Terrors if You Have PTSD

How to Cope With Night Terrors if You Have PTSD

Many people diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experience sleep disturbances, including night terrors. Parasomnias are common among individuals with PTSD. According to Frontiers in Psychology, “PTSD is . . . linked to remarkable disruptive nocturnal behaviors, including abnormal vocalizations and complex body movements.” Parasomnias, including night terrors and sleepwalking, can impact a person’s overall health and well-being. Alter Wellness Care provides evidence-based treatments for individuals recovering from PTSD and co-occurring disorders. 

What Are Night Terrors?

Night terrors are a form of sleep disturbance during non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep. You may experience more than one form of parasomnia. Studies have shown that “[t]here is a strong association between sleepwalking and night terrors.” Some people experience multiple sleep disturbances throughout the week. Further, repeated episodes can reduce energy, affecting your ability to concentrate on treatment and recovery. 

Individuals with the highest risk of developing night terrors include: 

  • Adolescents and young adults
  • People who have witnessed or experienced a trauma 
  • Individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder or PTSD

Night terrors are most common among adolescents and young adults. However, adults also experience night terrors when under extreme emotional distress. Untreated PTSD often causes high levels of stress that interfere with a person’s sleep cycle. Early treatment is the best way to reduce the severity of symptoms.

How Do Night Terrors Affect Your Health?

Night terrors reduce the effectiveness of sleep. You might wake up multiple times throughout the night feeling extreme fear or distress, making it more difficult to fall back asleep. Moreover, interrupted sleep leaves you feeling groggy, exhausted, or unable to concentrate throughout the day. 

Any sleep disturbance can impact your sleep and overall well-being. However, night terrors often cause significant emotional distress and increase the risk of accidents or injuries while asleep. Some common injuries reported by adults who experience night terrors include: 

  • Bruises or scrapes from hitting objects while asleep 
  • Accidentally hitting or pushing partners while asleep 
  • Falling down stairs 

Sleepwalkers can complete surprisingly nuanced activities without waking up. Night terrors are similar. You may lash out at something in your nightmare and accidentally hurt yourself by hitting the wall, bed frame, or other objects. Medication and other treatments reduce the risk of experiencing these potential side effects by reducing the risk of parasomnias. 

The Symptoms of Night Terrors

Sleep disturbances are common. According to The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), “About 50 to 70 million Americans have sleep disorders, and 1 in 3 adults do not regularly get the recommended amount of uninterrupted sleep they need to protect their health.” The side effects and symptoms of severe sleep disturbances reduce your quality of life and make it difficult to focus on treatment for PTSD. 

A few of the most common symptoms include the following: 

  • Waking up abruptly from a deep sleep 
  • Inability to fully wake up or inability to fall back asleep
  • Extreme fear of experiencing nightmares or night terrors
  • Being afraid to fall asleep 
  • Screaming during sleep 
  • Labored breathing during sleep 
  • Excessive sweating 
  • Rapid heart rate 
  • Confusion upon waking 
  • Extreme tiredness during the day 

Often, people don’t fully wake up before falling back asleep. Some people may not even be aware they experienced a night terror. However, even if you don’t remember having them, feeling afraid before bed, having unexplained injuries in the morning, or experiencing frequent exhaustion may indicate the presence of night terrors. Reduce your risk of experiencing night terrors by getting treatment for your PTSD and any co-occurring conditions. Physiological distress is the most common cause of severe nightmares in adults. Care programs stabilize emotions and decrease stress, reducing the prevalence of parasomnias. 

Treatment Options at Alter Wellness Care

Alter Wellness Care offers intensive outpatient (IOP) and partial hospitalization programs (PHP) for individuals struggling with PTSD. The care team guides clients through choosing the best treatment options for their unique situation. Clinicians are trained to provide trauma-informed care that reduces the risk of re-traumatization and ensures clients feel safe and respected. 

Some of the treatment options include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Psychoeducational groups
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Support groups and other forms of peer engagement
  • Seeking safety
  • Additional therapies and services

The treatments offered at Alter Wellness Care allow you to reprocess trauma and manage your PTSD symptoms using healthy coping techniques. Sleep disturbances generally decrease after people address the underlying issues in therapy. Outpatient care provides an excellent environment for healing from PTSD. You have access to an expert team of mental health professionals while spending nights and weekends at home, where you can practice coping skills. 

Successfully manage your PTSD and reduce or eliminate sleep disturbances by participating in an outpatient treatment program. The care team at Alter Wellness Care will ensure you have the tools and resources you need to grow and thrive during and after treatment.

Night terrors are relatively rare in adults. However, individuals diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder may experience a range of sleep disturbances, including night terrors. You may feel afraid before falling asleep or worry about accidentally harming yourself or others during severe sleep disturbances. However, you can successfully manage your disorder. Mental health treatment and prescription medications can reduce your risk of experiencing night terrors related to your PTSD. Alter Wellness Care provides evidence-based outpatient treatment programs to help clients recover from the effects of PTSD. The care team will teach you essential skills and coping techniques for reducing night terrors. To learn more about our programs and how we can help, call our office today at (866) 311-3510

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