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sleep disturbances and moving while sleeping!

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sleep disturbances and moving while sleeping!

Postby TarynJ » Thu Sep 04, 2008 4:37 pm

Hi there,

I am just curious about what kind of sleep disturbances people with PTSD symptoms experience. Nightmares are common I know but I also wonder if anyone has noticed any other sleep changes.

I used to get nightmares a lot, but as my PTSD has gotten better, they are not as numerous.

However, I have also had problems with two other somewhat opposite issues that could be related to PTSD: sleep paralysis and moving during sleep (not just sleepwalking but kicking or punching out).

I haven't had sleep paralysis for a while but it was almost always due to waking up from a nightmare too quickly before my body could catch up.

Conversely, I have unfortunately kicked and punched my partner in my sleep upon "waking up" from a nightmare too quickly.. I am not entirely awake, I'm still dreaming, but my body is able to move.

I wonder if this has happened to anyone else on this board and if you had any solutions. I feel like the core of the problem is the nightmares and if I could solve those, then paralysis and any kicking/punching wouldn't occur.

I find sleep very interesting.. any thoughts are greatly appreciated.

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Postby Butterfly Faerie » Thu Sep 04, 2008 5:00 pm

Here are some sleep problem's other then nightmares associated with PTSD, sleep paralysis and that can be common in PTSD.

Difficulty falling asleep

Basic Biological Changes: Actual biological changes may occur as a result of trauma, making it difficult to fall asleep. In addition, a continued state of hyper-arousal or watchfulness is usually present. It is very hard for people to fall asleep if they think and feel that they need to stay awake and alert to protect themselves (and possibly others) from danger.

Medical Problems: There are medical conditions commonly associated with PTSD. They can make going to sleep difficult. Such problems include: chronic pain, stomach and intestinal problems, and pelvic-area problems (in women).

Your Thoughts: A person’s thoughts can also contribute to problems with sleep. For example, thinking about the traumatic event, thinking about general worries and problems, or just thinking, "Here we go again, another night, another terrible night’s sleep," may make it difficult to fall asleep.

Use of Drugs or Alcohol: These substances are often associated with difficulty going to sleep.
Difficulty staying asleep

Distressing Dreams or Nightmares: Nightmares are typical for people with PTSD. Usually, the nightmares tend to be about the traumatic event or some aspect of it. For example, in Vietnam veterans, nightmares are usually about traumatic things that happened in combat. In dreams, the person with PTSD may also attempt to express the dominant emotions of the traumatic event; these are usually fear and terror. For example, it is not uncommon to dream about being overwhelmed by a tidal wave or swept up by a whirlwind.

Night Terrors: These are events such as screaming or shaking while asleep. The person may appear awake to an observer, but he or she is not responsive.

Thrashing Movements: Because of overall hyper-arousal, active movements of the arms or legs during bad dreams or nightmares may cause awakening. For example, if one were having a dream about fleeing an aggressor, one might wake up because of the physical movements of trying to run away.

Anxiety (Panic) Attacks: Attacks of anxiety or outright panic may interrupt sleep. Symptoms of such attacks may include:

Feeling your heart beating very fast

Feeling that your heart is "skipping a beat"

Feeling lightheaded or dizzy

Having difficulty breathing (e.g., tight chest, pressure on chest)


Feeling really hot ("hot flashes")

Feeling really cold (cold sweat)

Feeling fearful

Feeling disoriented or confused

Fearing that you may die (as a result of these symptoms)

Thinking and feeling that you may be "going crazy"

Thinking and feeling that you may "lose control"

Hearing the Slightest Sound and Waking Up to Check for Safety: Many people with PTSD, especially combat veterans, wake up frequently during the night. This can be for various reasons. However, once awake, a "perimeter check," or a check of the area, is often made. For example, a Vet may get up, check the sleeping area, check the locks on windows and doors, and even go outside and walk around to check for danger. Then the Vet may stay awake and vigilant and "stand guard;" he (or she) may not return to sleep that night.
What can you do if you have problems sleeping due to PTSD?

Talk to your doctor

Let your doctor know that you have trouble sleeping. Tell your doctor exactly what the problems are; he or she can help you best if you share this information about yourself.

Let your doctor know that you have (or think you have) PTSD. It is not your fault that you have these symptoms. Tell your doctor exactly what they are.

Let your doctor know about any physical problems that you think are contributing to your sleep problems. For example, chronic pain associated with traumatic injuries can make it difficult to sleep.

Let your doctor know about any other emotional problems you have–these may also be contributing to your sleep problems. For example, depression or panic attacks can make it hard to fall asleep or to stay asleep.

There are a number of medications that are helpful for sleep problems in PTSD. Depending on your sleep symptoms and other factors, your doctor may prescribe some medication for you.

Your doctor may recommend that you work with a therapist skilled in dealing with emotional and behavioral problems. Psychologists, social workers, and psychiatrists fall into this category. They can help you take a closer look at, and possibly change, the variety of factors that may be preventing you from sleeping well. They can help you with PTSD and other problems.

Do not use alcohol or other drugs

These substances disturb a variety of bodily processes. They impair a person’s ability to get a good night’s sleep. For example, alcohol may help a person fall asleep, but it interferes with one’s ability to stay asleep.

If you are dependent on drugs or alcohol, let your doctor know, and seek assistance for this problem.

Other strategies

Limit substances that contain caffeine (e.g., soda, coffee, some over-the-counter medicines).

Try to set a regular sleep/wake schedule:

A consistent sleep schedule helps to regulate and set the
body’s "internal clock," which tells us when we are tired
and when it is time to sleep, among other things.
Make your sleeping area as free from distractions as possible:

Aim for quiet surroundings; keep the room
darkened; keep the television out of the bedroom.
Consider a light nighttime snack:

A light snack after dinner may prevent hunger from waking
you up in the middle of the night.
Avoid over-arousal for at least 2-3 hours prior to going to sleep:

Try not to get your body and mind in "arousal mode."
Things that may tend to do this are: heavy meals,
strenuous exercise, heated arguments, paying bills,
and action-packed movies.
Don’t worry that you can’t sleep:

Remember, there may be a number of reasons for your sleep problems. The first step is to talk to your doctor.

website: Sleep & PTSD
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Postby plicketycat » Sat Sep 13, 2008 3:47 pm

I have PTSD (and panic attacks) and I have similar sleep difficulties.

I have never experienced sleep paralysis because I rarely sleep deep enough for those hormones to get to high levels. Unfortunately, this also means that I am not sleeping deep enough to dream either and I have been diagnosed REM deficient after a sleep study at the hospital. When this gets too bad, I fall into a semi-comatose sleep state where I can't be woken up for a few hours.

Also, since I sleep so lightly, I also move around a lot and have hit, punched, slapped and kicked my husband many times - sometimes just from regular dreams not even nightmares.

I experience night terrors when my stress levels are high and often wake up with a panic attack from a dead sleep (not dreaming).

Although I normally sleep very lightly, if I am sleeping deeply and someone touches me to wake me up I react quite violently. I normally become immediately "awake" and reactive even if my thoughts haven't quite cleared yet, so being startled because I was sleeping deeper than normal has lead to people getting a bloody nose or black eye a few times :(
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Postby MystikalGizmo » Mon Sep 22, 2008 7:20 pm

I have nightmares alot
I scream I punch I shake I'll feel like something is holding me down on the bed and wont let me wake up I'll sweat and feel like I'm choking I'll feel very fearfull I'll be half screaming Feel like I just went to hell and back.

I'm always scared to sleep and will always fight sleep till I 'm all worn out from fight it and then when I do go to sleep I'll sleep for about 4 hours. My body is always very tired and dragging but my fear of sleeping because of nightmares is always running a mile a minute
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