PTSD & Sleep Paralysis: How Traumatic Experiences Can Affect Sleep (Guest Post by Melissa Flickinger)
This week, I’m pleased to present an article written by the wonderful Melissa Flickinger–book marketing manager extraordinaire–about an experience I know all too well: sleep paralysis. More about Melissa later, but first her post:
PTSD & Sleep Paralysis: How Traumatic Experiences Can Affect Sleep
It began in high school, the terrifying nightmares of feeling suffocated. The frightening sensation of being “awake” in your sleep, unable to snap out it while a shadowy figure is dragging your lifeless body across the ground.
This phenomenon is called “sleep paralysis”
Sleep paralysis is a feeling of being conscious but unable to move. It occurs when a person passes between stages of wakefulness and sleep. During these transitions, you may be unable to move or speak for a few seconds up to a few minutes. Some people may also feel pressure or a sense of choking. (via www.WebMD.com )
I first came across this term while Googling the things I had been seeing and feeling in my nightmares. To my surprise, I found there are many people – several of my own friends- who have had some experience with sleep paralysis. There is not a clear explanation as to why this occurs, but there is a handful of behaviors that can be considered triggers: taking OTC drugs such as sleeping pills, cold medicine, alcohol use – to name a few. For a long time, I had accepted that these were the reasons behind these awful occurrences. It wasn’t until earlier this year that I discovered that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression can also risk factors of experiences sleep paralysis as well as other sleep disorders.
During a counseling session a few months back, I had began discussing an incident that had occurred my first year at the high school. I had gone to a party in the woods one night, had a bit too much to drink and blacked out. I walked off with a long-time friend, a guy, who offered to guide me through the dark woods so I could go to the bathroom. I don’t remember anything between the time I started walking and the time my friends later found me unconscious, lying on the ground just off the dirt path with my pants undone. As I described the details of that night that I did remember, I had an “AH-HA” moment – I told my counselor about the night in the woods and how it suddenly occurred to me that the majority of my sleep paralysis experiences involved me being dragged at night in the woods.
She confirmed that the trauma I had experienced that night had been manifesting itself into a sleep disorder. And up to that point, I had not even realized that I was experiencing symptoms of PTSD. In my research on PTSD and sleep problems, I’ve found that there are several options for treatment. Reaching out to professional for cognitive behavioral therapy, support groups, and discussing medication options is a major step. PTSD is not just a veteran’s disorder- it’s a disorder stemmed from traumatic experiences. Self-medicating by use of drugs and alcohol can numb the pain for a while, but in the end it can cause triggers for episodes of sleep paralysis.
Melissa currently studies Human Relations and Creative Writing at University of Iowa. She has a strong interest in psychology (specifically mental health disorders and addictions). Her love of reading led her to a career in book marketing and author assistance. Melissa is the founder of Melissa Flick’s Author Services – featuring Author Assistance and Book Marketing Management. She is also the Director of Marketing and Advertising with PixieGrind Ink Publishing.