Category: Narcissistic Abuse

5 self-soothing techniques for sleep disturbances caused by trauma

5 self-soothing techniques for sleep disturbances caused by trauma
Sleep disturbances are not uncommon for those with a history of trauma

Sleep disturbances are not uncommon for those with a history of trauma, be it psychological/emotional and/or physical, of a single or complex nature (a series of adverse events). That is because some trauma victims, especially those who grew up in a stressful environment (developmental trauma), often suffer from hypervigilance. Hypervigilance is a state of constant arousal, which is experienced in a conscious or unconscious manner. For a number of trauma sufferers, their brains are stuck on survival mode, even when there is no reason to feel unsafe. As a result, they may experience at least one of the following sleep problems:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Waking up during the night or too early and struggling to fall back asleep
  • Feeling scared while trying to fall asleep
  • Having a strange feeling that there is an image, something or someone in the room
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Jerking awake right as falling asleep
  • Having racing and/or incomprehensible thoughts
  • Feeling scared of falling asleep
  • Not being able to fall back asleep after having a nightmare
  • Waking up scared and lost and not knowing why
  • Not being able to sleep in complete darkness and/or without background noise

To better deal with the above, I suggest the following 5 self-soothing techniques for sleep disturbances caused by trauma:

1- Tell yourself you are safe

As simple as this sounds, telling yourself, “I am safe”, silently and repeatedly, can remind you that there is nothing to worry about anymore. Reminding yourself that you are safe now works as to bring you back to the present. Moreover, when you say to yourself that you are OK and that there is no current threat to your well-being, you return to your own, grown up body, as well as to the safety of your own home (or wherever you are sleeping).

2- Physically comfort yourself

As the renowned trauma therapist Peter Levine explains in this video, by giving yourself a cuddle or touching your forehead and chest simultaneously, you can help yourself regulate the negative feelings that make you feel overwhelmed, such as fear and anxiety. I often recommend my clients to gently stroke their arms to feel a sense of tenderness and love for themselves, not only when having sleep disturbances, but also when feeling rejected. Touching, even when performed independently and without another human being, helps us calm down and relax.

3- Connect with your inner child

If you have suffered developmental/childhood trauma, your inner child requires your attention from time to time. As much as your self-esteem needs nurturing to stay high, that little boy or girl inside of you also craves attention and care to feel safe, particularly when your fears do not seem to correspond to that competent adult you have become. When that seems to be the case, close your eyes, breathe deeply for a few minutes and go to a place inside yourself where you can connect with that little person. Picture yourself as a figure of protection, love and safety, as your inner child’s ideal father or mother (not the ones you have in real life), and spend some time comforting, talking or even playing with him or her.

4- Do a breathing exercise

Breathing exercises are effective practices to reduce arousal and stress. Physiologically, they help calm down your nervous system, which is a simple and useful means to manage not just the symptoms of PTSD or C-PTSD, but also those of other anxiety disorders or episodes. I highly recommend this Pranayama exercise at least once daily to help you manage your anxiety and prevent sleep disturbances, as the ones above listed.

5- Challenge negative thinking

If your intrusive/racing/automatic/negative thoughts are discernible, challenge them immediately. If they are telling you that something bad is about to happen or other such nonsense, shut them up with objectivity. Regain control over your own mind and do not let them run the show. You can do that by questioning their meaning with rational explanations that expose their incoherence. If you are truly enraged by the effect they have had on you and your sleep, you can also openly curse them or tell them to go away and leave you alone.

The 5 self-soothing techniques for sleep disturbances caused by trauma related in this article could also become part of your self-care routine, and not be limited to what happens before and after sleep. The most productive way to manage hypervigilance is consciously and proactively. You do not to have to wait until you lose sleep to be made fully aware of its power. The earlier you start taking care of yourself and your emotional, psychological and physical health, the longer you will be able to enjoy its benefits.

Were you raised by a narcissistic mother?

If you believe you were raised by narcissistic mother, the following questionnaire will help you gain insight into the issue.

To find out the probability of your mother being a narcissist, answer “yes” or “no” to the questions below. Once you have completed the questionnaire, count your “yes” answers and read the score interpretation comments at the bottom of the page.

1- Do you struggle to feel like an adult and a competent woman in your mother’s company?

were raised by a narcissistic mother
Find out if you were raised by a narcissistic mother

2- Do you feel under pressure to live up to your mother’s expectations and standards in order to be accepted and/or valued by her?

3- When in your mother’s company, do you often feel responsible for how she feels?

4- Does your mother treat you differently (e.g., politely, affectionately) in front of other people?

5- Is your mother jealous of you?

6- Does your mother have a habit of questioning and/or discarding and/or invalidating and/or ignoring your skills and achievements?

7- Do you feel you cannot count on your mother for emotional support?

8- Do you struggle to make your mother understand your feelings?

9- Is your mother hard – if not impossible – to please?

10- Does your mother ever show genuine regret and apologize for treating you inappropriately?

11- Do you believe that your mother does not know the real you?

12- Do you feel false and/or insecure and/or inadequate in your mother’s company?

13- Do your mother’s moods tend to fluctuate with great intensity and frequency?

14- When taken over by antagonistic feelings such as anger, shame and insecurity, does your mother abuse you verbally?

15- Does your mother use emotional blackmail to get what she wants from you on most occasions?

16- Does your mother make you feel responsible for her happiness?

17- Do your mother’s attitude and values seem not to evolve with time?

18- Do you often feel forced to meet only the needs and wants of your mother?

19- Do you find it hard to associate the image of your mother with that of an emotionally stable and secure adult?

20- Do you struggle to see yourself as an independent entity from your mother?

21- Does your mother reject or ignore your interests when they do not reflect her own?

22- Do you find it difficult to connect affectionately and emotionally with your mother?

23- Does your mother only accept your skills and achievements when recognized by somebody else?

24- Does your mother use your skills and/or natural talents and/or important moments of your life for self-aggrandisement?

25- When involved in family disagreements, does your mother always come out as the victim of some great injustice?

26- Does your mother not value you for whom you are, but for what you have to offer?

27- Are you embarrassed by your mother’s attitude and behaviour in front of other people?

28- Is your mother disappointed and/or makes you feel guilty for not doing what she wants?

29- Does your mother consciously ignore your feelings?

30- Does your mother expose and/or humiliate you in front of other people?

 

Score analysis:

1 – 5: It is unlikely that you were raised by a narcissistic mother.

6 – 9: It is somewhat likely that you were raised by a narcissistic mother.

10 – 19: It is very likely that you were raised by a narcissistic mother.

20 – 30: It is extremely likely that you were raised by a narcissistic mother.