Breaking the Cycle: The Complex Relationship Between Trauma and Sleep

healing from nightmares healing from trauma releasing stress rem sleep sleep disorders somatic therapies

Why Is Sleep So Important?

Sleep holds deep value in the processing of sensory information. It is during sleep that the brain integrates and consolidates information, storing it in a way that gives it meaning and understanding. Sleep is also responsible for how memories - or how the memory of an experience - changes over time; therefore, making sleep an essential component for processing and healing trauma.1,3 

Traumatic events shift a survivor’s nervous system into a state of hyperarousal.4 This state increases anxiety by elevating the adrenaline and norepinephrine levels in the body, consequently causing sleep disturbances to be a common effect. These effects often include insomnia, nightmares, flashbacks, fatigue, irritability, and depressive moods, which prevent the body from settling into restorative REM sleep.1,5 

Living in this cycle of anxiety and disrupted sleep depletes the body to the point of exhaustion, interfering with the body’s ability to cope with and heal from trauma. This is because the process of restoration that occurs during restorative REM sleep plays an essential role in the processing and integration of traumatic memories and emotions.1,5 The quantity but also quality of sleep, therefore, holds deep value in the processing of traumatic memories to release and heal from trauma.

Somatics And Sleep To Soothe And Heal

By focusing on bodily sensations and regulating the nervous system, somatic and body-based therapies offer you a greater awareness and insight into your internal experiences, including thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. Holistically, this helps to rewire and regulate the nervous system to shift into restorative sleep more easily to help release deep-rooted trauma stored in the body.

Guided by leading trauma experts and based on theoretical knowledge, our somatic and body-based approach in creating the Healing Trauma Through Sleep Program offers you the opportunity to: 

  • Rewire your nervous system to nurture your body into a place of calm and rest after trauma.
  • Increase blood flow, relax muscles, and activate the respiratory and circulatory systems to safely heal from the effects of insomnia
  • Ease and release the tension from your body and mind to relieve restless energy and anxiety.
  • Rekindle inner peace by reducing the frequency and intensity of nightmares.
  • Soften the body and soothe yourself back to sleep in order to safely process and integrate traumatic memories so as to promote reformative healing. 

Our Healing Trauma Through Sleep Program is an online, self-paced program that has been carefully curated to support you in understanding the complex relationship between trauma, memory, and sleep while assisting you in gently soothing post-traumatic anxiety to reconnect to healthy and restorative sleeping patterns to rekindle a sense of emotional equilibrium and wellbeing. 


1Horowitz, HA., Cunningham, TJ., Maes, P., & Stickgold, R. Dormio: A targeted dream incubation device.Consciousness and Cognition. 2020. 83, 1-14.

2Newson, R. (2022, April 29). Trauma and sleep. Sleep foundation.

3Payne P, Levine PA, Crane-Godreau MA. Somatic experiencing: Using interoception and proprioception as core elements of trauma therapy. Frontiers in Psychology. 2015; 6

4Van der Kolk, B. (2014). The body keeps the score: Mind, brain and body in the transformation of trauma. Penguin UK.

5Walker, M. P., & Van der Helm, E. (2009). Overnight therapy? The role of sleep in emotional brain processing. Psychological Bulletin, 135(5), 731-748. 


Want Practical Strategies For Healing The Trauma-affected Nervous System?

If you find these articles helpful and want practical therapies you can use to begin fixing nervous dysregulation today you may be interested in exploring our top-rated guided programs:

Vagal Toning Program

Integrating Polyvagal Theory into 10-minute therapies that gently tone the vagus nerve after trauma

Learn More

Trauma-Informed Yoga Program

Safely integrate reparative trauma-informed yoga postures to facilitate 'tissue memory' release

Learn More

Somatic Therapies For Trauma Program

Tune into your body, develop your somatic awareness, and find a sense of groundedness.

Learn More