Person journaling with a bed and "Zzzzz" coming out of the journal

Falling Back to Sleep After Nightmares

There is one thing that I hate more than living with insomnia. It's living with insomnia, finally falling asleep, and being jarred awake by a nightmare that feels so real that you have to check with someone else to make sure it didn't actually happen.

What hogwash!

To me, it feels like my body is saying - oh, it took you so long to fall asleep the first time, let's see if we can double that timing during the same night.

So completely unfair.

Life-like nightmares

Now, before we get started, I know there is medication available specifically to prevent nightmares. I know this, because I take this medication. I have taken it since undergoing major trauma in August of 2021. And I would say about 85 percent of the time, the low dose that I'm on works. It works often enough that I do not feel like it is necessary to think about increasing my medication dose, but I do have to acknowledge that sometimes there are nightmares that slip by this magic medication.

And when it happens, well, it's terrible. I seem to only have life-like nightmares, nothing that is easy to brush off and settle back in afterwards.

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Failures in my routine sleep meds

This, in conjunction with having recent failures of my routine sleep medication, has left me particularly susceptible to some rough nights sleep.

Last week, I had finally fallen asleep after completing all of the things in my sleep arsenal, and I was rudely woken very abruptly with a nightmare about my partner leaving me. I know you can imagine this is a very difficult situation to think about in the middle of the night, especially when you went to bed knowing your relationship was fine and then you woke up wondering if the dialogues you had just heard in your dream were real or imaginary.

Overwhelming anxiety

To be honest, this was a time I had to wake up my partner. I needed to hear him tell me that everything was okay, and I needed his help regulating.

My heart was beating so fast and I felt so anxious that even though I wasn't in bed alone, I felt alone in bed. This was one of those times that I knew I had to get out of bed, wash my face, get some water, and do a hard reset.

Turning over on my pillow wasn't going to work out this time. I spent some time in my kitchen, had a small snack, turned to my nighttime notepad and tried to write out truths and affirmations - "This wasn't real," "Those things he said you imagined, it was your brain playing tricks on you." And, "You're okay. Your marriage is okay." But to be honest, none of those things were providing any solace.

Getting back to "normal" after waking from a nightmare

I returned to bed, and my husband was drifting back to sleep. I placed my head on his chest and listened to his heartbeat for a while - my heartbeat was able to sync to his, and finally, after laying there for quite some time in the dark, convincing myself everything was okay, I was able to fall asleep.

The following morning was rough. I had not slept much overall, and my husbands interrupted sleep affected him too.

What are some other ways that you fall back asleep after realistic nightmares? What helps you get back to a relative "normal?"

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