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Brain operations- our every thought, conscious and unconscious, which demands our every action, whether we think about them or not- happen on neural circuit. The brain, the big squishy organ of folded up parts, is really made up of tones of tissue ‘wiring’ and nodules which hold that wiring together, called synapses. Neural circuits within the brain can be changed over time. Either neural circuits and neural circuitry are strengthened and enhanced or they are weakened and degraded.

Post-traumatic stress disorder causes a change in neural circuitry. The changes in neural circuitry which take place as a result of PTSD cause all of the symptoms associated with PTSD like nightmares.

People experience nightmares of their original trauma, scenarios of experiencing their trauma again, or other triggers associated with their trauma. Being awake and having to function as normally as possible throughout the day is difficult for someone living with treated or unresolved trauma. Recovery from trauma is a lifelong process in which symptoms like nightmares can arise. Having to deal with nightmares in trauma is exhausting and frightening. The experience of trauma through nightmares feels real, incredibly real. People often wake up screaming, crying, talking, yelling, or thrashing around in their sleep. Sweating, shaking, and feelings of confusion are common.

Sleep should be a sacred time for healing. Instead, for many, sleep is a frightful endeavour. Many who live with trauma and experience nightmares fear going to sleep. The idea of a restless night full of nightmares is intimidating. Too often, these individuals turn to staying awake, or finding harmful behaviors which keeps them awake, like substance abuse.

Harvard Medical School’s Department of Neurobiology published an article about nightmares. Nightmares happen during the REM sleep cycle, when we are our mostly deeply asleep. Pulling out of the REM stage of sleep requires a transition. In that transition, we tend to feel like we are caught between being asleep and being awake. During that period of being not quite awake but not quite asleep, our memories are most vivid. Nightmares in PTSD feel real and frightening because the memories people are experiencing in between those stages of REM sleep are real. Trauma can already feel like a nightmare from which an individual cannot wake.

Call The Guest House Ocala today for information on our residential treatment programs for traumas, addictions, and related mental health issues: 1-855-483-7800