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Many teens don't get enough sleep, usually because they're busy and tend to skimp on sleep.


A single traumatic event can lead to psychological trauma, or it can build up over time in response to ongoing stress. Experiencing trauma can increase the risk of mental and physical health issues, including suicide. When the brain anticipates a threat, it reacts quickly in order to protect itself from harm.

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An internal alarm system, called the stress response or the fight-flight-freeze response, triggers physiological changes throughout the body. A cascade of hormones are released, muscles tense, heart rate increases, and breathing becomes more rapid as the body prepares to defend against threats. Initial reactions vary and are all considered normal and healthy responses to psychological trauma.

These reactions often include confusion, anxietyphysical arousal, and difficulty expressing emotions.

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Fortunately, humans are incredibly resilient and, for the majority of people, even the most challenging reactions to traumatic experiences will lessen with time as the body and mind integrate the experience and heal. Some people experience delayed reactions after traumatic events.

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Delayed reactions may include depression, fatigue, nightmares, and even the development of sleep disorders. If these symptoms persist over time, or if they begin to interfere with work, school, or relationships, they may be a symptom of more severe post-traumatic stress. Post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD is a condition characterized by recurrent and involuntary memories of the traumatic event during the day e.

People with this condition may avoid external reminders people, places, activities and internal memories, thoughts, or feelings surrounding the event.

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Friends and loved ones around them may notice mood changes as they become more easily startled and hyper-aware of potential danger. There are effective treatments for PTSD that can help survivors heal from the lingering effects of trauma. Sleep issues are common after a traumatic experience.

Many people have difficulty falling asleep, wake up more often during the night, and have trouble falling back asleep after a traumatic event.

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Trauma can also affect sleep architecturewhich means that it can change how the body moves through sleep cycles and stages. Although experts are still working to understand the implications of the changes observed in sleep architecture after trauma, rapid eye movement REM sleep appears to be the stage most affected. REM sleep is important for storing memories and processing emotionsand dreams during REM sleep tend to be more fantastical and bizarre. Distressing dreams and nightmares are common to trauma. Survivors often have dreams about the traumatic event that either directly replay the experience or contain trauma-related emotion, content, and symbols.

While sleep issues after a traumatic experience can be distressing, they may also be an important opportunity for treating and healing from trauma. Research suggests that being able to sleep after a traumatic event can reduce intrusive trauma-related memories and make them less distressing.

Targeting sleep issues in the early treatment of trauma may reduce the risk of developing PTSD.

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Insomnia is one of the most common sleep issues related to trauma and resolves on its own in the majority of trauma survivors. More severe and persistent sleep disorders are usually seen in people with higher levels of post-traumatic stress and PTSD.

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While rare, sleep disorders that may develop after trauma include nightmare disorder, periodic leg movement disordersleep terrorsand parasomnias such as REM sleep behavior disorder. This landmark study found that ACEs increase the risk of mental and physical health problems later in life, including depression, anxiety, heart disease, and even early death.

One way in which childhood trauma increases the risk of diseases later in life may be through the development and adverse effects of sleep problems. Up to one half of children show some of the symptoms of PTSD after traumaincluding hyperarousal and trouble sleeping. Trauma can have a ificant impact on childhood brain development, so sleep problems may persist or get worse as the child progresses through adolescence and into adulthood.

Trauma experienced during childhood can also affect the severity of insomnia in adulthood. In adult patients diagnosed with insomniathose with a high of ACEs wake up more often during the night and have more disturbed sleep than those with few or no ACEs. Be patient with yourself and try to have realistic expectations about the time it will take for your body to heal. Working with a doctorpsychologist or counselor can help you create reasonable, achievable goals for coping with sleep issues after trauma. Here are a few other tips for sleeping as you heal from trauma:.

Rob writes about the intersection of sleep and mental health and ly worked at the National Cancer Institute. He is board-certified in psychiatry as well as sleep medicine. What explains the link between PTSD and…. Sleep and ADHD have a bidirectional relationship.

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Dementia is an irreversible loss of brain function that affects memory, language, problem-solving, and other cognitive processes. There are different…. Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information. Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics,other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies.

It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website. The Sleep Foundation editorial team is dedicated to providing content that meets the highest standards for accuracy and objectivity. Our editors and medical experts rigorously evaluate every article and guide to ensure the information is factual, up-to-date, and free of bias. Updated January 15, Written by Rob Newsom. Medically Reviewed by Alex Dimitriu.

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Get the latest information in sleep from our newsletter. Your privacy is important to us. Was this article helpful? Yes No. Alex Dimitriu Psychiatrist MD. Trauma and Violence.

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May, C. Defining trauma: How level of exposure and proximity affect risk for posttraumatic stress disorder. Psychological trauma: theory, research, practice and policy, 8 2— Kilpatrick, D. Journal of traumatic stress, 26 5— Chu, B. Physiology, stress reaction. StatPearls Publishing. National Institute of Mental Health. Coping with traumatic events.

Breslau N. The epidemiology of trauma, PTSD, and other posttrauma disorders. Babson, K. Temporal relations between sleep problems and both traumatic event exposure and PTSD: a critical review of the empirical literature. Journal of anxiety disorders, 24 11— Ross R. The changing REM sleep ature of posttraumatic stress disorder. Sleep, 37 8— Payne, J. Sleep, dreams, and memory consolidation: The role of the stress hormone cortisol.

Gieselmann, A. Aetiology and treatment of nightmare disorder: State of the art and future perspectives. Journal of Sleep Research, 28 4e Kleim, B. Sleep, 39 12— Vandrey, R. Interactions between disordered sleep, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance use disorders. International review of psychiatry, 26 2— Colvonen, P. Journal of clinical sleep medicine, 11 5— Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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