Sleep Strategies for PTSD

Well – this is NOT going to be a “Get a great night’s sleep in five easy steps!” kind of post.

I wish there were easy solutions.

The reality is, PTSD wreaks havoc with your ability to get a good night’s rest, and there’s no quick fix.

But – I’d like you to try these strategies. They’re not a miracle fix, but they may help somewhat. These are ideas and suggestions, not marching orders; try the ones that you feel comfortable with.

– Try to set a regular bedtime routine. Do something relaxing, like having a warm shower; listening to some soothing music, or drinking a cup of chamomile tea.

– Keep the temperature in your bedroom a little on the cool side. Not cold, but a little cooler than you’d want for sitting around. (Our body temperature naturally drops a little to sleep, so being too warm will actually keep you awake).

– If sudden noises from outside make you jump awake, a fan can provide a gentle soothing noise to help you sleep; soft music can also be helpful.

–  Use a relaxation exercise before going to bed.

– Keep your feet and hands warm. Cold hands and feet are a signal of stress for your body – if necessary, wear socks and/or gloves to bed.

– Try to exercise regularly, but not just before bed: exercising right before bed can make you feel revved up, so it’s harder to go to sleep. There is good evidence that regular exercise improves restful sleep, so it’s important to try to get some exercise each day. Try to finish your workout at least three hours before bed.

– Try not to do stimulating activities just before bed: This includes stuff like playing a competitive game, watching an exciting movie or TV show, or having an important discussion with a loved one. Looking at your computer screen or checking your cell phone shortly before bed may also interfere with sleep, because the kind of light given off by these devices registers in our brain as bright daylight, so it makes your brain think it’s time to wake up.

– Try not to have caffeine for at least six hours before bed. This includes coffee, many teas, chocolate, sodas, etc.

– Bed is for two things, both of which start with “s”. Don’t read, watch TV, or work in bed – that will make it harder to fall asleep.

– Try not to use alcohol to help you sleep. It might help you fall asleep, but it will make you more likely to wake up a couple of hours later and have trouble getting back to sleep.

– Try not to go to bed too hungry or too full: it’s hard to sleep well after a big meal – you’ll wake up with heartburn during the night. On the flip side, going to bed hungry makes it difficult to fall asleep. Have a light, well-balanced meal at least two hours before bed instead.

Like I was saying… None of this advice will magically fix your sleep problems. But, if you keep trying, it may help a bit.

Still having trouble sleeping? You can find some ideas on what to do here.

Waking up with nightmares? Here‘s some advice on how to cope.


I’d love to have you share your thoughts, comments, and questions. If you do post a comment, please don’t give specific details of your trauma – these may be triggering to another reader. If you’d like to offer criticism, I’ll take it – I know I’m not perfect, and I’m always willing to learn. If you do offer criticism though, I’d really appreciate it if you could do so constructively (ie., no name-calling, please). Thanks…

You can find me on Twitter and on Facebook.

~ Dr. Dee Rajska, C. Psych.

*Fine print: Please feel free to share the link to this blog wherever you think it might be helpful! Reading this blog is a good start, but it’s no substitute for professional help. It takes a different kind of courage to admit to yourself that you’re struggling. PTSD is not a sign of failure – it’s a sign that you’ve been through a lot, and have tried to stay strong for too long. If you need help – you’re in some pretty great company. Reach out, and give yourself a chance to feel better.

**Really fine print: The content of Coming Back Home is copyrighted; please feel welcome to share the link, but do not copy and paste content. Unless otherwise noted, all original photography on Coming Back Home is the copyrighted property of Larry M. Jaipaul; please do not copy images without permission.

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