EXERCISE: Sleeping better: Sleep hygiene

A traumatic event often affects our ability to sleep.

We may have difficulty getting to sleep if we lie in bed thinking about how our life has changed and wondering if things will get better. We may avoid going to sleep for fear that we might have more nightmares. If we do manage to get to sleep we may then wake up after experiencing nightmares. It is normal to have difficulty getting back to sleep.

The tips and ideas below have been selected to try and help you increase the chance of getting better sleep.

1. Bed is for sleeping and sleeping happens at night-time

  • Try and keep your bedroom and bed for sleeping only
  • Avoid sleeping in the day
  • Develop a routine before bed time such as having a relaxing bath or listening to some relaxing music and go to bed at around the same time each night. Try and wake up around the same time each morning. Small children find habits and routines comforting, and the same things work for adults too. As adults, we forget that these things apply to us as well
  • If you cannot sleep after 30 minutes, get up and try an activity such as listening to some music. Do this for about 15 minutes then return to bed and try and sleep. Repeat this as often as is necessary until you go to sleep
  • Make your bedroom a nice place to sleep – try smells or flowers (or some new bed sheets!)

2. Be kind to your body

  • Do not go to bed hungry
  • Try and avoid spicy food late in the day as this can act as a stimulant in our bodies
  • Reduce caffeine but definitely avoid caffeine after 4pm- remember caffeine is also found in tea and fizzy drinks like pop. You can buy de-caffeinated versions of these drinks if needed
  • Although alcohol can initially make us feel sleepy, it stops us from experiencing restful sleep and is not great for PTSD or Adrenal Fatigue. It can also make it harder to fall asleep again, if you wake up in the middle of the night


Sleeping better: Coping with nightmares

Practice calming yourself down after a nightmare by using any of the previous techniques.

Having a card with the information from the tips previously tried may help ground you back in the moment. For example, you may have a card with the phrase ‘I am safe, it is May 2011 and I am in my bedroom’ by your bedside to read after you wake from a nightmare.

Having a picture that reminds you of the present can also be useful to have by your bedside if waking from a nightmare as it will help your brain focus on the present and calm your threat system quicker.

Taking a smell to bed and having it ready can, again, be a useful way to help your brain remember where you are following a nightmare. A calm and soothing smell can also help you get off back off to sleep after a nightmare.


Try: Any of the other grounding strategies that you have developed can be helpful if you wake from a nightmare