It is very common for people with a diagnosis of PTSD to experience some type of problem sleeping. In fact, difficulty falling and/or staying asleep is considered one of the hyperarousal symptoms of PTSD, and studies have found that sleep problems are one of the most commonly reported symptoms reported by people with PTSD.
People with PTSD may experience a number of different types of sleep problems.
Many people with PTSD have difficulties falling asleep as compared to people without PTSD. In fact, one study of Vietnam veterans found that almost half of those with PTSD said that they have trouble falling asleep at night, whereas only 13% without PTSD said that they have this problem.
In addition, PTSD may make it difficult to stay asleep during the night. In the same study mentioned above, 9 out of 10 veterans with PTSD said that they often have trouble staying asleep during the night. People with PTSD may wake up frequently during the night, have difficulty falling back asleep, or may wake up earlier than they intended. Also, even if sleep does occur, it is often not good, effective sleep (for example, there may be a lot of movement or talking/yelling during sleep).
Of course, nightmares are also very common among people with PTSD. Nightmares are considered one of the re-experiencing symptoms of PTSD.
Among people with PTSD, nightmares may be about the traumatic event a person experienced or they may be about some other upsetting or threatening event.
Finally, because of these sleep problems, people with PTSD often develop fears about going to sleep. They may experience worries or thoughts of their traumatic event as soon as they go to bed.
They may also fear acting out their nightmares while asleep or impulsively upon being woken up from a nightmare, leading them to sleep alone away from their partners.