How To Manage Nightmares In PTSD

Frightening, disturbing, inconvenient, and happening while you are supposed to rest and rejuvenate your mind and body — these are the characteristics of nightmares in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Exhaustion tugs at the eyelids and the comfort of the bed awaits a tired head. But for people dealing with PTSD, a good night’s sleep is a distant dream.

PTSD is a stress disorder affecting people who have been through a traumatic experience in life. Accidents, natural disasters, physical or sexual assault, etc., are some causes of PTSD. The condition affects every aspect of an individual’s life at varying levels. Frequent nightmares are one of the significant symptoms of the condition. According to the US Department of Veteran Affairs, 96% of individuals deal with nightmares.

Even though these nightmares in PTSD occur in a vast number of people and disrupt sleep regularly, they are manageable. With proper help, support, and treatments, individuals can successfully deal with them. On that note, here are some ways to manage nightmares in PTSD.

manage nightmares in PTSD

Ways to manage PTSD nightmares

1. Treatment Options

Trauma focuses counseling and therapy sessions are an adequate step in dealing with nightmares in PTSD. Different types of therapy options are effective for such symptoms. They include:

  • Desensitization and exposure therapies: This type of therapy uses controlled exposure to traumatic life experiences to reduce the emotional responses associated with them.
  • Image rehearsal therapy: This form includes writing a nightmare down and turning it into the form of a story. The individual is then asked to rewrite the story in a way that the crisis or dilemma is resolved. The new version of the story could be read during bedtime.
  • Lucid dreaming: This therapy approach involves sensitizing a person to gain awareness while being in a dream. Once the individual understands that they are in a dream, they are able to resolve or improve events within their dreams.

Read more: Best Online Therapy Platforms

2. Aroma Control

Essential oils and aromatherapy are one of the best options for anxiety and stress relief. As per a study conducted in 2019 by Laura Schäfer, pleasant smells while sleeping might be helpful for people in avoiding nightmares. However, familiar smells might be counter-productive and induce nightmares. This is why you can start by using different types of aromas during the day. Subsequently, when you find one that helps you calm down, you can also use it during your sleep.

3. Adequate Temperatures

Temperatures that are too extreme (too hot or too cold) can lead to restless sleep at night. Moreover, when you are uncomfortable in your sleep, there are more chances of frequent awakenings during the course of the night. This is why adjusting your room temperature before you go to sleep might be beneficial in aiding your sleep quality and avoiding nightmares.

4. Video Games

A study published by Science Direct involving military veterans showed that people with PTSD who frequently played video games had less threatening or were less affected by nightmares. While it may seem that playing a loud and violent game might be bad for a person with PTSD, having a sense of power and control during the game is actually beneficial. However, this research is primary, and one must consult a professional before trying the method.

Read more: 13 Mental Health Games And Activities Online.


Nightmares in PTSD are a widespread occurrence in those dealing with the condition. These emotionally and psychologically disrupting dreams might be a way for your brain to deal with traumatic situations. Despite their severity, these nightmares are manageable using treatment options, including therapies and specific lifestyle changes. 

Psychotherapy is another potent way to deal with PTSD symptoms. To learn more the psychotherapy for PTSD, click here.

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