Trying to wake them up can be dangerous but also futile. Many people in night terrors never wake up during the episode. What you can do is speak to them in a calm and soothing voice to offer comfort. If they get up but are not too agitated, gently guide them back to bed.
Your instinct is to wake them up and save them from whatever it is they're seeing. However, it's important not to wake them up and allow them to work through the episode. They're more likely to forget the dream if they can sleep through it.
What Helps With PTSD Nightmares? You can make sure your bedroom is not too cold or too hot; start a nightly relaxation routine to prepare for sleep; ensure there isn't light in your room keeping you from sleeping deeply; exercise daily; talk about your dreams; and engage in Image Rehearsal Therapy (IRT).
Chronic nightmares in PTSD are associated with adverse consequences and decreased psychological and physiological functioning as well as disturbed sleep. 8 PTSD and nightmares are intertwined in such a manner that nightmares strengthen PTSD symptoms, and PTSD in turn causes nightmares.
When someone experiences nightmares from PTSD, they can seem very real to them. They might feel like they are back in a situation that is not safe, the traumatic experience that caused the disruption in the first place. Symptoms can keep them awake or unable to fall asleep for long periods of time.
For veterans, an example of a PTSD nightmare usually involves the replaying of traumatic events they witnessed or took part in. Similar to civilians who suffer from PTSD, their nightmares could be a replay of the traumatic event, such as physical abuse or violence.
One of the worst things you can do to a person with PTSD is sneak up and surprise them. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, one of the symptoms of PTSD is being on edge and easily startled.
If someone has PTSD, it may cause changes in their thinking and mood. They may suffer from recurrent, intrusive memories. Upsetting dreams, flashbacks, negative thoughts, and hopelessness are also common. Experiencing PTSD triggers may cause the symptoms to become worse or reoccur frequently.
Chronic feelings of guilt, shame and self-blame. Feelings of emptiness. Difficulty forming and maintaining close relationships. Feeling as through no one understands you or what you've been through.
Speak calmly but avoid waking them.
A person may behave irrationally and violently during a night terror. Trying to wake them up can be dangerous but also futile. Many people in night terrors never wake up during the episode.
Some experts believe nightmares in PTSD are the sleeping version of “re-experiencing,” or reliving a traumatic event. When you're awake, reexperiencing may occur in the form of a flashback. These intrusive symptoms have to do with how PTSD changes brain regions involved in fear response and memory recall.
IRT is a well-researched type of therapy, and is highly recommended for PTSD-related nightmares. Talking Some psychologists believe that talking about your nightmares can put them into perspective (key to reducing the inevitable anxiety following nightmares).
It's best not to try to wake kids during a night terror. This usually doesn't work, and kids who do wake are likely to be disoriented and confused, and may take longer to settle down and go back to sleep. There's no treatment for night terrors, but you can help prevent them.
Nightmares are primarily a REM sleep phenomenon, but they may also occur during NREM sleep in patients with PTSD (12). These dysphoric dreams often depict themes, images, and emotions that can be related to traumatic events. Nightmares may trigger short or prolonged awakenings from sleep.
Alterations in arousal and reactivity: Arousal and reactive symptoms may include being irritable and having angry outbursts; behaving recklessly or in a self-destructive way; being overly watchful of one's surroundings in a suspecting way; being easily startled; or having problems concentrating or sleeping.
Strong relationships are important for everyone's well-being, and negative relationships can make recovery from PTSD more difficult . Supporting a partner may give them the space they need to pursue recovery, while offering reassurance can remind them that someone loves them and is there for them.
In the event of a PTSD attack, you may experience intense PTSD symptoms that can last for hours—which can impact your ability to work or function in your daily life.
Triggers can include sights, sounds, smells, or thoughts that remind you of the traumatic event in some way. Some PTSD triggers are obvious, such as seeing a news report of an assault. Others are less clear. For example, if you were attacked on a sunny day, seeing a bright blue sky might make you upset.
PTSD and Night Terrors
Approximately 96% of people with PTSD experience terrifying nightmares that are so vivid that they seem real. Unlike bad dreams, night terrors have physical manifestations such as thrashing, flailing, screaming, and even sleepwalking.
Trauma-related nightmares generally occur during REM sleep, which is when we tend to have vivid dreams. When you wake up from these nightmares, you may experience fear, anxiety, panic, distress, frustration, or sadness. You can also wake up soaked in sweat and with your heart pounding.
People with PTSD often experience nightmares or anxiety-provoking dreams that replay the traumatizing event or represent major threats and themes associated with it. The characteristics of these dreams vary based on the trauma experienced.