Trauma is not just “in your head”. It leaves a real, physical imprint on your body, jarring your memory storage processes and changing your brain.
How many of you have nightmares or anxiety dreams related to your trauma? Remember : PTSD nightmares aren’t always exact replays of the event. Sometimes they replay the emotions you felt during the event, such as fear, helplessness, and sadness.
Some researchers think nightmares may be an intense expression of the body working through traumatic experiences, so intense that the nightmare causes the sleeper to wake up. Nightmares may also represent a breakdown in the body’s ability to process trauma.
Consequently, poor sleep affects all aspects of your life. From your mood (causing irritability and stress) to increased arousal caused by the anxiety. This ends up being a vicious cycle that ends up continuing to affect your sleep and adds to your PTSD symptoms.
I feel so wiped out emotionally after a nightmares. And it’s proven that people experience real, bodily effects after traumatic dreams. Emotions and stress experienced in dreams can have very real emotional and physiological consequences… which again, can intensify symptoms.
But just like memories, the dreams that they can help produce are best talked about, written down, discussed in therapy and investigated. Doing this, makes the intangible, tangible and allows us to get support and work through these horrible nighttime woes.