Nightmares are common when you have PTSD. According to the Center for the Study of PTSD, 71% to 96% of those suffering with PTSD have nightmares as one of their symptoms. You may even end up trying to avoid sleeping so you don’t experience the nightmares. Unfortunately, nightmares are one of the ways we relive or re-experience the trauma, and it can go on for months or years.
The nightmares that PTSD sufferers have often involve are an instant replay of the original trauma. These nightmares are different in some ways than nightmares people without PTSD experience. They are more likely to occur earlier in the night and during different stages of sleep. They are also more likely to involve body movement.
When you receive treatment for PTSD, it is likely your nightmares will begin to get better, or will, at least, occur less often. One form of treatment involves Imagery Rehearsal Therapy (IRT) where you visualize a different ending for the situation so it is no longer upsetting. Then you play this new version over and over while you are awake. When you go to sleep, this type of treatment can reduce how often your nightmares occur.
If you have breathing problems while you sleep, getting treatment may improve your nightmares too. At this time, more research needs to be done on the use of medications to treat nightmares from trauma, although there are some medications which are showing some promise.