Learning to Sleep Again After a Traumatic Weather Event

The United States has seen two devastating hurricanes in the past two months.  Hurricane Florence left a large portion of eastern North Carolina underwater after it dropped record-setting amounts of rain.  Then, last week, the monster storm Michael devastated parts of the Florida panhandle and Georgia, and caused damage as far inland as South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia.  Many people in these areas lost everything, but even those who came through the storms with little physical damage may find that it can wreak havoc on their sleep.

When we lay down in bed, many times we end up replaying events of the last few days.  If you recently lived through a traumatic event like a hurricane, that may be on a loop in your head well into the night.

To try to get back to a normal sleep schedule, try these basic steps, which are good advice for everyone:

  • Try to return to a normal schedule: This can be difficult, for the reasons mentioned earlier.  Memories of the event will hopefully fade in time, letting you finally settle in for sleep.
  • Go to bed when you’re tired: An event like a hurricane can disrupt your schedule, as you may be dealing with nervous children and power outages.  Trying to force yourself to stay up later so that you’ll fall asleep easier will only lead to you being more tired the next day.
  • Don’t lay in bed if you can’t sleep: If you’re having trouble getting to sleep, get up, turn on a low light, and do something quiet like reading a (paper) book or listening to soothing music.  This may distract you and make it easier to fall asleep after 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Follow a sleep routine: Set a routine of what you do right before bed.  It’s a good idea to turn the TV off 30 minutes before trying to sleep, to allow your brain a chance to settle down.  Again, reading a book is a great idea before turning off the light.
  • Get help if you need it: Post-traumatic stress disorder is real.  If you think your sleep problems are a little more than a temporary problem, visit a mental health professional and talk with them about it.

Finally, sometimes doing something for  victims of a weather event can help you move past your own trauma.  Check out this article from Consumer Reports on the best ways to help.