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Afraid to Sleep - Trauma Occurred Before Sleeping

Discussion in 'Sleep & Nightmares' started by Etain, Mar 26, 2007.

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  1. Etain

    Etain New Member

    For a while now I've had really horrible sleep patterns (staying up far too late and sleeping in too late). The problem is most nights I feel like I'd rather do anything than go to sleep.

    I used to have regular recurring violent nightmares...sometimes even every night several times a night. These have pretty much stopped, or at least I haven't recalled having any but 1 since the summer.

    But I still find myself really afraid to sleep. When I do finally go to bed my heart rate speeds way up as soon as I lie down. I find I sleep better in the daytime when I get the chance to do so (such as weekends)...I somehow feel much "safer".

    It seems a little strange to me because what happened to me didn't occur while I was sleeping...although the repeated abuse/assault always occurred in the evenings/nights before sleep (I was assaulted by a boyfriend). Perhaps this could be a contributing factor?

    I tried to explain some of this to a counsellor I was seeing in the summer, and I don't think she understood what I was talking about. I find it severely affects my productivity and concentration during the day even. Has anyone else had experience with something like this? Advice would be appreciated as well.
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  3. becvan

    becvan Queen of the Blunt! Premium Member


    Hi Etain. Welcome first off. Now, your heart rate speed up? That's anxiety. So you are getting anxious when you try to sleep. Since you feel safer sleeping during the daytime, this is most likely the cause. Look for things to help you feel safer to try and sleep.

    Also, being abused during those hours will definately cause you to feel unsafe now and make you anxious of sleeping.

    I really am all out of advice.. (it's 2 am and I'm up.. so I am definately not doing to good in the sleep area myself here.. LOL) but I do understand. Lack of sleep and anxiety is huge with PTSD.. LOL

  4. anthony

    anthony Silently Watching Founder

    Yep, the thought of sleep in your mind equals, wheres the abuse or I have just been abused. Anxiety is the prevailing factor you will find that is actually stopping you from sleeping, being the anxiety of thinking what has happened before sleep, but more simply the anxiety of your trauma overall. The sleep is a side effect (symptom) of the anxiety.
  5. kers

    kers I'm a VIP

    I have similar bedtime troubles.

    I used to be more confused about it, because I thought that for it to be trauma-related, I should be having anxious thoughts directly related to the trauma. I wasn't. But I was having anxious thoughts about my safety...and it's the "same difference," so to speak. It manifests differently than I expected, but it's still a result of the trauma.

    Wish I had some suggestions. I sleep with some lights on in the house, as I feel safer, and wear a face mask to avoid the light. Oddly, this combo sometimes works for me.
  6. willing

    willing Active Member

    Remember though that sleep is really important. Kind of like water and exercise are. I know Anthony is trying to get us off our med dependence but if you haven't slept well in more than two days then ask your doctor for something to help with sleep. If you have problems with dependency like I do I always tell the doc so we try and find something that dosen't create dependency or vaseline world the next day. Then work on the issues of the trauma as I totally agree with Anthony on this aspect of our recovery.
  7. Etain

    Etain New Member

    Thanks so much to everyone who responded. It really helps to know that this isn't some strange symptom that I have, but that it actually has a cause. I've been trying to figure out for ages why I do the whole sleep avoidance thing. I started to suspect the answer as I typed out my initial post, and your responses really helped. Anthony - your explanation of the correlation was very helpful. The way my body is interpreting that time of night never occurred to me before.

    Kers - I might try your idea of sleeping with the lights, at least sometimes. I do tend to feel more safe when there is a light on. I also talked with my boyfriend and he suggested using valerian (natural herb for insomnia). I am very much encouraged and perhaps if I can manage my sleep avoidance, my other symptoms will become more manageable.
  8. anthony

    anthony Silently Watching Founder

    You won't ever manage a symptom by itself, without attacking the problem at the core; being the trauma endured which is causing the symptom of anxiety, hence sleep depravation, etc etc.... you can only apply bandaids to symptoms, medications being such a bandaid, and they all peel off sooner or later.
  9. reallydown

    reallydown I'm a VIP

    Welcome ot the forum Etain. I'm a bit late it seems but ...I have the same problems...I used to have nightmares, still do sometimes (when I actually get to REM)...but most of the time I'm too anxious to fall asleep...or I wake up several tiems a night...I still refuse to take pills for it...but am getting exhausted. Take care.
  10. Etain

    Etain New Member

    anthony - yes I understand what you're saying and I agree. Thankfully I have made quite a bit of progress with the "problem at the core" - more so in the past few months than I had in the 7 years or so before that :).

    However, although many of my symptoms are improving, the sleep avoidance has really been affecting my day to day life. And because I'm sleep deprived some of my other symptoms that might have improved by now (memory and concentration problems) are not as good as they could be. I don't believe in using meds to sleep either. Instead, I use herbal teas before going to bed at high stress times.
  11. anthony

    anthony Silently Watching Founder

    If your attacking the core of the problem, then you need time in order for your brain to fully heal, and things like reading novels or the like will greatly improve your brains ability to concentrate and memory issues.
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