PTSD & Sleep Disorders; What are Some Coping Strategies? Cognitive Behavioral Therapy & More

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a complex mental health condition that can significantly impact various aspects of an individual’s life. Among the many challenges faced by those with PTSD, sleep disturbances rank high on the list of symptoms that profoundly affect their quality of life. Understanding the relationship between PTSD and sleep disorders is crucial for developing effective management strategies and improving overall well-being. With PTSD awareness, we at Foxhole Veterans Charity Foundation would like to discuss PTSD and sleep orders as well as tips for managing the symptoms.

Basics of PTSD Sleep Related Problems

Sleep disturbances are prevalent among individuals with PTSD, with studies indicating that up to 70-90% of individuals diagnosed with PTSD experience sleep-related problems. These problems can manifest in various ways, including difficulty falling asleep, frequent awakenings during the night, nightmares related to the traumatic event, and overall poor sleep quality. The relationship between PTSD and sleep disorders is bidirectional, meaning that sleep disturbances can exacerbate PTSD symptoms, while the presence of PTSD can disrupt normal sleep patterns.


One of the hallmark symptoms of PTSD-related sleep disturbances is the occurrence of nightmares. These vivid and distressing dreams often replay traumatic events, leading to significant emotional distress and sleep disruption. Nightmares can be so intense that individuals may avoid sleep altogether, leading to severe sleep deprivation and worsening of other PTSD symptoms. Addressing nightmares is thus a crucial aspect of managing sleep disturbances in individuals with PTSD.


Another common sleep problem associated with PTSD is insomnia, characterized by difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep despite adequate opportunity for sleep. Insomnia can further exacerbate daytime symptoms of PTSD, such as irritability, difficulty concentrating, and fatigue, leading to a vicious cycle of sleep disruption and worsening mental health.

Other Sleep Disorders

In addition to nightmares and insomnia, individuals with PTSD may also experience other sleep-related issues, such as sleepwalking, sleep terrors, and sleep paralysis. These parasomnias can further disrupt sleep and contribute to feelings of fear and anxiety associated with nighttime experiences.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Managing sleep disturbances in individuals with PTSD requires a comprehensive approach that addresses both the underlying PTSD symptoms and the specific sleep-related issues. Cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) has emerged as one of the most effective treatments for sleep disturbances in individuals with PTSD. CBT-I focuses on changing dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors that contribute to sleep problems and incorporates techniques such as stimulus control, sleep restriction, and relaxation training to improve sleep quality.


For nightmares, therapies such as imagery rehearsal therapy (IRT) have shown promising results in reducing the frequency and intensity of traumatic nightmares. IRT involves rehearsing a positive, alternative ending to the nightmare scenario during waking hours, which can help desensitize individuals to the traumatic content and reduce its impact on sleep.


In addition to psychotherapy, medications may also be prescribed to manage sleep disturbances in individuals with PTSD. However, medications should be used cautiously, as they may carry risks of side effects and dependency, particularly in the long term. Non-pharmacological approaches should be prioritized whenever possible, with medication considered only when other interventions have been ineffective.

Better Environment

Creating a conducive sleep environment can also support better sleep hygiene in individuals with PTSD. This includes maintaining a regular sleep schedule, avoiding stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime, and creating a comfortable and relaxing sleep environment free from distractions.

Training Veterans Out of Victorious Gym in Milford & Troy, Michigan

In conclusion, managing sleep disturbances is an essential component of PTSD treatment and can significantly impact the overall quality of life for individuals affected by this condition. By addressing nightmares, insomnia, and other sleep-related issues through a combination of therapy, medication, and lifestyle modifications, individuals with PTSD can experience improved sleep and better mental health outcomes. Effective management of sleep disturbances can contribute to overall recovery and well-being for those living with PTSD.

Call Now Button