Medical & Behavioral Remedies I’ve Tried For PTSD Insomnia, From Best to Worst

Originally published at www.onesurvivorstory.com.


Insomnia and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are almost a guaranteed pair. Data show up to 91% of patients with PTSD report insomnia symptoms.

Nightmares often accompany the insomnia, and are usually, but not always, related to the trauma.

I developed PTSD fairly quickly after coming forward to NYPD as a victim of intimate partner violence, in February 2018, only to find myself in handcuffs in the back of an unmarked police car less than 2 months later.

Police betrayal will leave a scar not easily forgotten.

After I was released from NYPD custody, I agreed to cooperate with the DA in the pending criminal case against my assailant. They were, after all, the ones who dropped the charges against me. Over the course of 6+ months, I met regularly with them to practice testifying, yielding further trauma.

The entire debacle lasted over 8 months of 2018.

Since that wild ride of a year, I’ve had a lot of trouble sleeping. Here are some remedies I’ve tried, stack ranked from best to worst. Of course, YMMV.


Morning workouts

Not a fix, but this has been the most effective change I’ve made in my life, by far. For insomnia, as well as other PTSD symptoms: anxiety, paranoia, hypervigilance, etc. Definitely the best, side-effect free, method for dealing with insomnia that I’ve discovered, so far!

Benzodiazepines (e.g. Xanax, Klonopin)

Works, but addictive and tolerance builds fast. Also, really hard to get a prescription and doesn’t feel like “real,” restorative sleep. Not a fan of the empty feeling it produces, but many are. Would much prefer anxiety and panic, strangely.

Marijuana

A double-edged sword: definitely helps sleep come easier, but personally, I can’t stand the THC paranoia of being high for hours. If you enjoy the high, and weed helps you sleep as well, that’s awesome.

Better sleep hygiene

I’ve seen sleep doctors before, and taken an overnight sleep test. Better sleep hygiene is one of the first treatment plans recommended to people with sleep issues. There are a whole list of things you can try, but what has worked for me, to a degree, are things like:

  • Only using the bed for sleep and sex.
  • Stopping caffeine consumption after noon. Sometimes I’m naughty and make it 1PM.
  • Pleasant sleep environment. I’ll take air conditioning bills over unnecessarily sweaty sleep any day. Also, blackout curtains.
  • Avoiding heavy meat consumption before bed. Late night hotpot, I miss you.

Ambien

It’s a strong med and works, but I hate the side effects. Next day memory and cognition issues, poor appetite, grogginess, hangover, general slowness, etc. Like benzos, it doesn’t feel like “real” sleep.

People have reported engaging in bizarre behavior on Ambien, including cooking, driving, and getting arrested. I once ordered 3 self-help books on how to become a better Texas Hold ’Em poker player on Ambien. Found the receipt in my email the next day, with very little recollection. Good times.

Getting out of bed every 20 minutes, if tossing and turning.

According to National Sleep Foundation, this helps break or prevent any negative psychological associations with your bed. It seems to help, in a way, but I’m not super certain. Doing a mindless activity is probably better than just lying in bed, I suppose.

Meditation

Hit or miss. In terms of life in general, it’s hard to argue that meditation isn’t a helpful tool. But, in terms of insomnia, meditation has always felt like a crapshoot. To be frank, I’m tired of people talking about the practice as if it’s the secret answer to life.

4–7–8 Breathing

This is a breathing technique meant to promote relaxation. The idea is to get into a meditative state, breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and then exhale from your mouth for 8.

This technique worked the first couple times I tried it, and then didn’t thereafter. Maybe I just primed myself with anticipation the initial times. But, you’re supposed to practice it regularly, which I never really did.

CBD

I know this compound is hailed as the panacea of our time, but CBD gives me dysphoria. Pass. And yes, the brands I tried were dispensary grade.

Lunesta

A cousin of Ambien. My doctor prescribed this to me after I divulged my disdain for Ambien’s side effects.

It didn’t work at all. Tossed and turned for over 2 hours after taking it, and experienced headache and metallic taste in mouth. Woke up with an Ambien-like hangover, too. Gave up after one try.

Prazosin

Typically used to treat high blood pressure, Prazosin has, of late, become a popular drug for doctors to prescribe off-label for PTSD nightmares, but all it did was cause me discomfort.

I experienced horrible side effects and no gain. Worsened insomnia, tension headaches, weird taste in mouth, mouth pain, brain fog, among other things. Be careful with this one.


If you have PTSD, or even just insomnia, I hope this list may help add to the arsenal of remedies I’m sure you’ve already tried.


Follow Jessie on Twitter or email her at hitherejessie@gmail.com.