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Poor quality sleep is one of the major symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In fact, up to 90 percent of PTSD patients suffer from sleep disturbance. Nightmares and memories of the traumatic incidents are just some factors that disrupt their sleep.
But adequate sleep is essential to physical and mental health and proper functioning. You need to sleep well to enhance so many aspects of your life, including your cognitive abilities, productivity, and immune system. And if you can get enough sleep, many other PTSD symptoms can be alleviated.
But here's the interesting and rather unfortunate thing; poor quality sleep usually inhibits the effectiveness of PTSD treatments. And when the treatment isn't effective, the symptoms (including anxiety) remain the same, contributing further to sleep problems. This leads to a vicious cycle.
So, one of the best steps to alleviate PTSD symptoms is to address sleep quality while treating the patient using cognitive or exposure therapy.
Cognitive therapy (CT) and exposure therapy are treatment methods for PTSD that involve exposing the patient to the traumatic memories in order for them to re-evaluate the threat with less pessimism. This reevaluation enables the patient to analyze the memories and to realize that there's no present danger. As a result, they become less "frightened and anxious." These treatments lead to better fear extinction memory in post-traumatic stress disorder.
Poor quality sleep can cause fear extinction memory to wear off over time after therapy ends, allowing PTSD symptoms to return in full force. The patient becomes easily frightened once again when exposed to those traumatic memories.
Now, here's the good news. Using blue light in the morning can improve sleep in PTSD patients, promoting retention of fear extinction memory. In simple terms, blue light can help PTSD patients retain the results of their PTSD treatment after the therapy ends.
A team of researchers exposed a group of PTSD patients to blue light for 30 minutes every morning for six weeks. Then, a control group was put on amber light exposure. The participants who received blue light therapy reported better sleep, significant improvement in their PTSD symptoms, and increased retention of fear extinction memories.
For those placed under amber light, their original fears and anxiety returned.
We can't help but appreciate the value of this morning blue light treatment. It's simple, cheap, and drug-free. And the results are beyond thrilling. It brings so much hope to thousands of people currently battling the agonizing symptoms of PTSD.
Although the sample size used in the study is small, blue light therapy for PTSD shows so much potential. We can only hope we'll get to use it more in the future to save more lives.