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Sleep Cycles

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When my PTSD first started it was so dibilitating that I ended up on meds almost immediately. For most of a year I slept fairly well due to the meds.

It's been 15 months since I've been off of medication. While going through withdrawals I had some nasty nightmares. I had no nightmares...at least none remembered while on meds.

But I've noticed in the last year that I've developed a very odd sleep cycle. I'll go several weeks where I sleep great and don't have nightmares. I'm very rested and it helps to keep my symptoms under control. Then it alternates for several weeks with broken sleep (sometimes with nightmares, sometimes not). Waking three, four, five times a night is not uncommon. Waking due to nightmares and having to go into another room to try and get back to sleep. Sleeping with the light on in an attempt to keep the bad dreams at bay or at least not wake up in a dark room. There doesn't have to be anything going on or I'm dealing with anything for this bad sleep cycle (how I refer to it in my mind) to start.

I'm not sure why this cycle has started. I've begun to just accept it as part of how it is for me. Does anyone else deal with alternating sleep cycles?

That seems to happen to me, too. I do take Trazadone, and overall I sleep so much better than I did before, but every so often I will go a few days or a week with sleep issues. For me, it is anxiety related, even though I don't always know what is triggering the anxiety.

Do you have any other syptoms during the days you don't seem to sleep well? Could it also have something to do with the temperature or humidity? Or your period?

Yes! I notice, too, that the nightmares feed off of each other like my anxiety or panic attacks do. It makes sense that they are cyclical in this way. If I have a panic attack, it's pretty much guaranteed that I'll have another within a few hours or the next day. For me, it's the simple fact of "thinking" or "worrying" about the nightmares that trigger the next one.

I've learned to accept this because I don't want to start taking any meds again. (besides my xanax). I also accept it because I also think it's a symptom that will always arise because I have PTSD.

I don't necessarily think that anxiety is always the cause for the nightmares, it could be anything causing them - something as simple as me thinking about any particular thing going on in my life, stressful or not.

By the way, I think Nic brought up a good point about the menstrual cycle - that's something to think about.

My sleep cycles have changed in the last few months too. I used to go to bed at 9, fall asleep at 10 and wake up at 6. Since July I don't fall asleep until midnight and can sleep until 8. I don't mind that change. I just need to get used to it.

I will have several nights when I sleep well and then a few nights when I don't sleep well. If I have three nights in a row when I don't sleep well I will take an Ambien or a Xanax if I feel anxious. That's the only time I have to take meds to help me sleep.
Thanks all for your responses.

Lots of good points. I've been paying lots of attention to this lately trying to detect a pattern. So far nothing stands out a a particular reason. Aside from the PTSD, of course!

Weather patterns, humidity, my menstral cycle, stress, anxiety...nothing's been a consistent thing yet. The only thing that I can put my finger on is that when the cycle swings back to not sleeping well I can 'feel' it in my brain. This feeling usually happens before bed. I'll just feel 'off' and know I need to sleep with the light on because the odds of having a nightmare are up again. It's really hard to describe...but I've gotten to the point where I know what this feeling means and respect it now. Kind of like that sixth sense that tells us to not do something and it turns out to be correct to follow our internal advise. It just feels like nightmares are going to be a part of my life now.

When so many things changed in my life after PTSD I tried to dissect everything about them to try and fully understand. That wasn't possible and turned out to be quite frustrating. I'm, I don't know...relaxing more, accepting more of these changes that keep happening to me. I'm just not getting quite as upset as before. I can't unchange them and getting upset just makes them worse. So far nothing that's changed has gone back to 'normal', so I might as well make my own 'normal' now.

Again, glad that I'm not alone in dealing with this.

Before I started Ambien a week ago, I went to bed at 8, woke up at midnight, sleep from 3 to 8am. Nap from 1pm to 4 pm.

Now I sleep all night long.
I started taking one med that gave me nightmares. Since I started taking my new sleep meds. (about 2 weeks ago) I sleep fine without nightmares or the nasty startle reflex. However my wife tells me that my left leg jerks all night. I guess it is about finding the right combination for you or learning to deal with the sleep issue that is keeping you up. I hope to come off the meds. We will see if the therapy helps. Wow that will be the first time I have admitted i'm in therapy. Most time I'll just call it treatment to keep it sounding more like a physical issue. Peace.
Yes, I too have strange sleep cycles. I might have one night of really good restful sleep and the rest of the week, I'll sleep for 45 minutes and be up the rest of the night or sleep off and on the rest of the night. When I do sleep, I do have nighmares too, so the sleep is not all that restful. One thing I have found, lately, that seems to help me, is I downloaded the sound of rain falling, to my ipod. When I lay down to go to bed, or I just need to unwind, I set the timer on the Ipod and listen to the rain. The sound of the ocean is another sound I listen to. Both these work for me and I sleep really well. (at least to start the night I sleep well.)
I thought about this post last night. I'm into my 'good' sleep cycle right now. Sleeping through the night and being able to turn the light off. The one thing I noticed that I hadn't before was that when I'm in this cycle I feel like I can't get enough sleep. Like my body's trying to catch up on all of the lost sleep from the 'not good' sleep cycle. Plus I'm fighting to keep my eyes open by 8pm at night. Yeah...so much for the all night parties we used to go to! LOL

Many medications, indeed most medications, used as sleep aids suppress REM sleep. If you take these for a period of time, then stop taking them, you will experience a phenomenon known as REM rebound. This is why you experienced such a large number of intense nightmares after coming off of the meds.

I agree with what you said......I was just given a script recently for Desipramine. I researched it, and found that this is exactly what this drug does. My Neurologist wants me in a DEEP, DEEP sleep every night for an extended period of time. I threw it in the garbage!!!!!!!!!!!! LOL!!!!!

I would rather get shit sleep with tossing, turning, and waking up, going back to sleep than to be put in a coma like state for 8 hours....NO THANKS I will pass.
After being on those meds for over a year, then stopping, wow! And for a person with PTSD.
My guess would be nightmare city. Must have been bloody awful.
Not good.
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