Guide to Sleep After Trauma

How traumatic events impact sleep and well-being

One in 5 American adults will experience mental illness in a given year, and about half of the American population will have a diagnosable mental illness at some point in their life. Still, the stigma attached to these diseases has persisted, leaving those suffering to continue facing discrimination. Whether the stigma comes from outside sources or one’s self, the idea that mental illness is a “bad” thing or something to be ashamed of prevents millions of people from receiving the help they need.

Leaving mental illness untreated can lead to a rapid decline in mental health and an increase in both severity and quantity of symptoms. Sleep disturbance is common across many mental disorders and is extremely prevalent in those who have experienced trauma.

To better understand the relationship between traumatic events and sleep, we surveyed over 1,000 people who reported experiencing a traumatic life event that negatively impacted their sleep. Seeing as the definition of trauma is very broad, we narrowed the qualifying experiences down to the most commonly reported in a preliminary survey: traumatic grief or separation; emotional abuse or psychological maltreatment; a serious accident, fire, or explosion; bullying; physical abuse or assault; serious illness or medical procedure; sexual assault or abuse; and a victim of or witness to domestic violence. Keep reading to learn more.

From Distressed to Deprivation
Despite little being known about why we sleep, scientists have figured out exactly how much sleep we need to stay healthy. Adults require seven to nine hours of sleep every night, with anything less than seven negatively impacting health. But quality sleep can be hard to come by, especially when stress and anxiety levels are high. For those who experience trauma, their quantity and quality of sleep are often diminished.

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