Anxiety and Insomnia - How a Single Event Can Affect Days Worth of Sleep

Trigger warning: This article mentions suicidal ideation and PTSD. If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, there are resources available for support including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) and online chat.

I know I won’t sleep tonight. I haven’t slept through the night since a major event occurred this weekend that required police presence that triggered my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in a way that really burned me.

Despite immediately taking my medication to help stop my panic attacks, it was all I could think about. Hours later. Even after the initial shock of it all. And now, days later.

Sleep cycle interruption

It jarred me. Past events make you stop in your path, and whether it’s an event that’s a big or small deal, for people with anxiety and for people who struggle with PTSD, it’s an event that will likely last much longer than people without either condition.

Because of this, my sleep cycle is totally interrupted, and I have a very heightened sense of awareness that will not allow me to sleep at all.

Lack of sleep caused my mental health to decline

Even though the event that triggered a major anxiety attack happened early in the morning, it lasted for days. Even with sedatives, the help of prescription medication, I struggled - severely – with sleep that weekend, which happened to be a long holiday weekend.

I quickly declined that weekend because of lack of sleep, and my mental health was severely affected, which often happens when I miss continuous nights of sleep.

With the help of my psychiatrist, we have a plan for when this happens now. In the beginning, it had to involve being in-patient because we now know that a certain amount of days without sleep - involving something traumatic or not, will make me on the edge of being suicidal, manic, or both.

I could not reach my therapist

I’m thankful for how far I’ve been able to come with the help of EMDR therapy. It’s made these days better. But still, it is incredibly challenging to come out of an episode of PTSD that lingers all day.

What makes these days even harder is that for many people, their anxiety heightens at night. It heightened for me that night. As I mentioned, this happened in the middle of a holiday weekend, on a Saturday morning. So, I was unable to call in or make an emergency appointment with my therapist, who would be able to walk me through the event, help me break it down, and help me find a way to cope with getting through the day and into the rest of the night and weekend.

The struggle of feeling along

This obviously wasn’t a choice, and like many people with insomnia and anxiety, I felt alone. I isolated myself until I felt comfortable coming out of my house, eventually hours later into my partner’s house, and eventually out of his bedroom to even interact with him.

I really struggled. And I am continuing to struggle. And though he is a huge part of my therapy, I cannot rely on my significant other to always be around, to always care for me when anxiety triggers bigger issues, and most of all, I don’t want him to be my caregiver. I want him to be my partner, my friend, my lover, and my secret keeper.

Thankful for my support system

I’m extremely thankful I have a partner who understands my struggles with insomnia, will make me feel safe when I do go to bed by scratching my back, asking me if there’s anything I want to talk about before we actually head to bed (so I have clear headspace), and checks on me when he finds me in random rooms in both of our houses when I’m unable to sleep.

I’m also extremely thankful I have an appointment with my psychiatrist tomorrow via video chat and multiple EMDR sessions, as my PTSD is currently very active, which means my insomnia is at its highest.

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