Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
(PTSD) still affects more than 200,000 Vietnam veterans on a daily basis, and countless other combat-worn veterans from more recent conflicts. Of the total of those veterans affected, about 90% report having trouble sleeping or having difficulty relaxing, a compounding set of issues that worsen their overall health and wellness. Recent studies are showing that restful sleep and easing PTSD are connected, and many of those affected are looking for a non-pharmaceutical way to finally get some rest. Connecting the dots between restful, complete sleep and easing the symptoms of PTSD is becoming more relevant as more research is done on the disorder and the events leading up to initial diagnosis. In this post we hope to offer some information on sleep, PTSD, and how sufferers can get back to resting peacefully at night.
Why are sleep and PTSD connected?
For a person with PTSD, getting the much-needed REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep that occurs during a restful period can be difficult. In the time after the traumatic event that triggered this disorder, falling asleep and staying asleep are both interrupted by the brain’s response to stress, noise, movement, and other distractions. An individual may not be able to “shut down” enough to relax and fall asleep, and environmental factors like traffic and family members can seem like a threat to a groggy, sleep-deprived mental state. As a result, precious REM sleep is lost to anxiety and stress, and the ability to maintain mental health worsens. In this same time period, symptoms of PTSD can grow and become more prevalent, creating a cycle that is difficult to break out of.
How can I prepare my home to better suit restful sleep?
Because PTSD and sleep are connected through a need to feel safe, creating a sleeping environment that is conducive to eliminating distractions and disturbances is paramount. Remove electronics, like the TV, computer, and cell phone from the bedroom and concentrate on making it a room of restfulness, bringing elements of calm and quiet in and loud, jarring elements out. If the television has kept you company for years, consider white noise or a moderately loud fan, to both eliminate noises that could trigger stress and to create a blank, soothing background for rest. The noise of the TV won’t be missed, and your sleep will be more complete. Other suggestions for creating a peaceful bedroom include updating to a more comfortable bed, always sleeping in a completely dark room, and using soothing, organic aromas, like lavender and chamomile, to create an atmosphere of languid relaxation.
What can I do for my body to help me sleep better?
Preparing your mind and body for sleep are just as, if not more, important than creating a restful bedroom. Give up watching TV or going for a walk right before bed, as any stressful or energetic activity could prepare your brain in the wrong way. Avoid caffeine and chocolate (which both contain caffeine) for at least six hours before sleeping, and eliminate heavy meals at least two hours before sleeping, to allow the body to rest naturally. Do things to relax yourself, like meditating or stretching slowly and calmly, and attempt to fall asleep, or head to bed, at the same time every evening. When waking up, try doing it at the same time every morning to ensure that your body finds a rhythm to get used to. Avoiding alcohol, stimulants, and other drugs can also aid you in finding rest at night, as well as adjusting your medication schedule to better suit your needs (something always discussed with your physician before attempting). Other healthy lifestyle trademarks, such as healthy eating, regular daytime exercise, and getting outdoors every day can improve the way your body takes on rest and relaxation.
How can I avoid chemicals that aggravate my PTSD symptoms?
In patients with chemical sensitivity and PTSD, some chemicals (like solvents, pesticides, and artificial perfumes) worsen symptoms of PTSD by interrupting sleep patterns. Studies have shown that the connection between chemical intolerance and sleep issues is clearly defined, leading those with this disorder to opt for more natural solutions. While navigating the effects of the disorder, avoiding new carpeting, harsh chemical smells from dyes and non-organic bedding, and replacing your mattress with an all-natural alternative can significantly improve your sleep and restfulness.
Our mattresses are made without the chemical flame retardants that are so prevalent in most mattresses on the market today. Beyond that, we go to great lengths to ensure that the materials we use in our mattresses are free from other harmful elements, like bleaches, dyes, and fragrances. You spend a third of your life on your mattress, so it makes sense to remove undesirable and unnecessary exposure to harsh elements from your bed. This is true for anyone, especially those dealing with sensitivities and special health requirements.