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PTSD and Night terrors: how to help your partner?
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PTSD and Night terrors: how to help your partner?

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Many people associate PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, with those who have served during a war. However, many suffering from this disorder have never served in the military.

One study found that more than 9 percent of Candians will experience PTSD in their lifetimes, and out of 24 countries reviewed in the study, Canada had the highest prevalence.

Are you experiencing PTSD + night terrors? Below are answers to some important questions you might have.

Night terror fantasy at night in a bedroom

What are PTSD and night terrors?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is marked by experiencing and/or witnessing a traumatic event and experiencing difficulty recovering from the event. PTSD effects can last for months, and even years after the traumatic event occurred, with certain triggers that can bring about disturbing memories.

Nightmares with PTSD are common, however, night terrors are much more harmful to a person’s health than nightmares. Approximately 96% of those living with post-traumatic stress disorder report experiencing night terrors. PTSD dreams and night terrors are associated with physical manifestations including flailing about, screaming, and even sleepwalking without knowing.

How and why does PTSD affect sleep?

As a person sleeps, their mind filters through various cycles of rem sleep and NREM sleep. During NREM sleep, the brain waves typically slow down, allowing the body to fall asleep.

However, REM sleep enables brain waves to ramp back up again, allowing for dreams to occur — or night terrors for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Woman having nightmare with closed eyes covers her head with pillow on bed

PTSD dreams can leave a person to experience unwanted and/or negative thoughts or even flashbacks of a traumatic event.

Although nightmares are common, many people wonder how PTSD aggravates sleep apnea.

People living with post-traumatic stress disorder experience an increased risk of anxiety, a common mental health condition that can induce obstructive sleep apnea resulting in periodic pauses in breathing as you sleep.

People with PTSD often have difficulties either getting to sleep, staying asleep, or both. They may find that they wake up multiple times during the night, with each episode coming with another difficulty falling asleep.

In some cases, the medications people take for PTSD anxiety and depression may lead to sleep problems.

Sad soldier covering his mouth attends cognitive-behavioral therapy

PTSD and night terrors: which treatment is best?

Licensed mental health professionals have joined together to help those struggling better understand the treatment options available to those with PTSD and night terrors.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be the most effective treatment for these conditions.

With the use of cognitive-behavioral therapy, a medical professional is able to help you determine what causes triggers of the event, as well as help you learn to process the emotions surrounding the event.

One common type of cognitive-behavioral therapy is known as cognitive processing therapy (CPT).

With the help of a licensed therapist, CPT helps the brain in recognizing and replacing negative thoughts brought about by post-traumatic stress disorder with less harmful thoughts.

This type of therapy also helps a person to understand that what happened is not their fault, and helps with feelings of anger, fear, and guilt associated with the trauma.

The combination of prescription medication alongside cognitive behavioral therapy has shown exceptional outcomes in treating PTSD and night terrors. Medical professionals often prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) including Celexa, Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft (or their generic forms) to be taken with the use of therapy.

Frequently asked questions

Post-traumatic stress disorder has been linked to several sleep disorders, such as insomnia, night terrors, and sleepwalking.

To reduce the risk of sleepwalking, medical professionals may prescribe sleep medicine or other prescription medications to treat the side effects of PTSD.

Some patients prefer to undergo hypnosis to curb sleepwalking.

PTSD has been linked to several sleep disorders. Specialists report that between 70% to 91% of people living with post-traumatic stress disorder experience at least one sleep disorder.

Investing in high-quality pillows and/or a new mattress can help reduce the risk of insomnia. We recommend the Polysleep Pillow and Zephyr mattress.

Experts report that post-traumatic stress disorder is linked to an increased risk of anxiety and depression.

These conditions increase the chance of developing obstructive sleep apnea, leaving a person to experience several bouts of apnea during sleep.

Obstructive sleep apnea is exacerbated in those who are sleep deprived, and being sleep deprived is a common occurrence in those living with PTSD due to nightmares and night terrors.


At Polysleep, we believe in investing in your overall health — which includes getting quality sleep.

The Zephyr mattress and the Polysleep Pillow allow for a better night’s rest night after night, leaving you to wake up to feel relaxed and rejuvenated.

Healthy sleep helps to reduce the risk of night terrors, nightmares, and obstructive sleep apnea, which in turn reduces the unpleasant effects those living with post-traumatic stress disorder may experience.

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