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Improving sleep: Ways to manage nightmares and find a peaceful sleep

How does trauma affect sleep?

Individuals who have experienced traumatic events frequently have trouble falling asleep and awaken easily, often waking up many times throughout the night and some people have nightmares. These issues result in disrupted, non-refreshing sleep.

How to Sleep Better

Elements of proper sleep hygiene can go a long way toward reducing sleep problems. These include:

  • Keeping a cool, dark, and quiet sleep environment

  • Reserving the bedroom for sleep and sex only

  • Staying on a regular bedtime schedule

  • Eating a healthy diet and avoiding caffeine before bedtime

  • Getting regular exercise, which also helps manage hyperarousal

  • Avoiding stressors before bedtime, including talking about your traumatic event

  • Having a warm bath or reading a calming book before bedtime

  • Turning off screens an hour before bedtime

  • Using a white noise machine if you are sensitive to sounds

  • Using meditation or other techniques to prevent rumination

  • You should sleep in a room that makes you feel safe, which may or may not be your bedroom. If you are uncomfortable sleeping in a dark room, a nightlight may provide a feeling of security.

Some people may be afraid to go to sleep because they worry they will have nightmares. Unfortunately, this can lead to spending hours in bed with racing thoughts. If you have been in bed for 20 minutes and you can’t fall asleep, get out of bed, go to another room to do something relaxing, and only return to bed when you feel sleepy. This will help strengthen the mental association between your bed and sleep.

Learning to sleep soundly again after experiencing trauma may take some time, so don’t feel defeated if it doesn’t happen right away. Keep practicing healthy behaviours, and you should eventually start to feel better.

Dream completion technique

Watch the short video below to learn a technique to manage nightmares and achieve peaceful sleep.


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