What to Do When Someone You Love Has PTSD Nightmares

Dr. Laura Tanzini
woman sitting on bed with head leaning on knees stressed from ptsd nightmare

No one ever wants to see a loved one in a state of fear, pain, or discomfort. Unfortunately, those living with PTSD experience these feelings more often than not. If you care for someone who has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, then you know how hard it can be to watch them suffer. Individuals diagnosed with PTSD might have severe nightmares or night terrors. These aren’t your ordinary run-of-the-mill bad dreams. These often involve involuntary body movements, flailing around, and vivid imagery that can cause extreme stress, anxiety, and even pain. While there is no cure or instant healing involved when it comes to PTSD, you can do things to help your partner through a difficult moment, especially if it’s happening in the middle of the night. Below is a list of different ways to handle PTSD nightmares with your loved one.

Find a Support System

The most important thing you can do when your loved one is diagnosed with PTSD is to find a PTSD treatment center for support. The best PTSD treatment center will have resources available for the both of you. Remember, it’s important to practice self-care when you’re dealing with a partner with PTSD. You both need support and professional therapists to lean on. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a treatment facility near you to get the information and help that you need.

Don’t Wake Them Up

It’s awful to watch your loved one experience a night terror. Your instinct is to wake them up and save them from whatever it is they’re seeing. However, it’s important not to wake them up and allow them to work through the episode. They’re more likely to forget the dream if they can sleep through it. Waking them up in the middle of a nightmare can be jarring, making it difficult for them to forget the imagery or get back to sleep.

Stay Away from Alcohol

Those suffering from PTSD should avoid drugs and alcohol altogether. It can become easy to be dependent upon substances that alter your mind or body when you have PTSD. However, when it comes to sleeping habits, alcohol can make it much worse. Even without PTSD, alcohol can disturb your sleep patterns. It’s highly recommended by PTSD treatment centers to never drink before bedtime.

Have Healthy Bedtime Rituals

PTSD nightmares and violent episodes are more likely to occur when your partner is in a state of anxiety or stress. It’s important to try to practice calming the mind and body before it’s time to go to sleep. Of course, meditation and yoga are great approaches to a good night’s sleep. However, other calming activities like playing an instrument, enjoying a cup of tea, classical music, or even watching something funny on TV can help ease your partner into the evening.

If you’d like information, reach out to Kinder in the Keys.


Author Bio

Dr. Laura Tanzini, DrPh, MA, MFT

Dr. Laura Tanzini is a highly educated and accomplished professional with a background in biology and psychology. She received a BS in Biology from UC Riverside, an MA in psychology from Phillips Graduate Institute, and a Doctorate in Public Health with a specialty in Lifestyle Medicine from Loma Linda University.

Dr. Laura Tanzini is a Board Certified Professional Counselor, Integrative Medicine Clinician, and PTSD Clinician. She has worked in multiple medical hospitals, mental health institutions, and inpatient eating disorder clinics. Also, Dr. Tanzini has written scholarly papers and spoken on various topics related to nutrition, stress, menopause, obesity, depression, anxiety, and human development.