The Intrinsic Relationship Between Trauma and Sleep

The Intrinsic Relationship Between Trauma and Sleep

As a trauma therapist it is not unusual to hear people say that after a traumatic event their sleeping patterns have dramatically shifted or restful sleep is almost non-existent.

These are some trauma symptoms that greatly interfere with sleep:

  • Flashbacks, reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again.
  • Hyperarousal, an abnormally heightened state of anxiety that occurs whenever you think about a traumatic event. This contributes to the body holding more tension, becoming more guarded and easily startled making it more difficult to prepare yourself to go to sleep.
  • Nightmares that can startle someone awake and make falling back to sleep very challenging.
  • Fear. Even though the person might rationally know they are okay in the moment, their body may not feel safe. For some people, going to sleep leaves them feeling vulnerable and unsafe and this might trigger hyperarousal.

**** SPOILER ALERT!! I share details from Paris Hilton’s new documentary****

In her recent documentary “This is Paris”, Paris Hilton talks about how she suffers from insomnia, usually goes to bed really late and feels tired frequently during the day. She shared she was kidnapped one night and taken to a boarding school that she referred to as an “emotional growth school.” She described more forms of abuse in the documentary but for the purposes of this blog, I will only focus on one traumatic event. Paris shared she has difficulty falling asleep because she keeps having the same recurrent nightmare of being kidnapped and this is still happening years after the traumatic event. Know that this is quite common and it happens to a lot of people.

It’s important to emphasize that not everybody who has sleep disturbances has suffered from trauma. However, someone who has experienced trauma presents with a higher likelihood of having sleep difficulties.

So, the big question is how can I work on improving my sleeping habits?

  • If sleep disturbance is a symptom of trauma, you would need to work on processing your past trauma to find relief from symptoms. Finding a trauma therapist might be an option worth exploring.
  • Come up with a sleep hygiene routine, an ideal time that you would like to go to bed and mentally prepare yourself an hour before hitting the sack.
  • Drink any sleepy tea before bedtime.
  • Have a notepad on your nightstand and do a “mental dump.” Dump all thoughts and worries prior to going to sleep.
  • Put some essential oil drops on your pillow (my favorite is lavender).
  • Play any binaural beats videos on YouTube (sharing link below, thank me later!)
  • Engage in some type of exercise to get rid of any pent up anxiety or tension during the day.
  • Try to avoid any electronics close to bedtime. We are all familiar with those “10 minutes” on Instagram/Facebook that ended up being 90 minutes of aimless scrolling.

I hope some of these suggestions are of value to you. I’ll leave you with the following quote…

“Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” – Thomas Dekker


Paris Hilton “This is Paris” Documentary on Youtube

Binaural Beats

Sleepy Teas


Maria Garcia, LMHC

My name is Maria Paz Garcia, and I am a Licensed Mental Health Counselor serving people in Broward County. I was born in Peru and moved to the U.S when I was 17 years old. I’m a bilingual therapist who understands the struggles and changes that we have to overcome to adapt in a new culture and country. I’m passionate, down-to-earth, approachable, straight forward but most importantly understanding and caring.

I specialize in working with individuals struggling with substance abuse issues; difficulty establishing healthy relationships; identifying and placing boundaries; communication skills issues, assimilation and acculturation concerns; life transitions such as retirement, breakups; low-self-esteem and trauma.

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