How to Cope with Nightmares After Serious Car Accidents

woman nightmares

Car accidents have far-reaching consequences. Survivors deal with months of physical aches and pains, trouble at work, trouble finding work, and other costs that are common after a serious car collision.

One of the most common problems is trouble sleeping—specifically, trouble sleeping due to nightmares.

It’s common for car accident survivors to resist going to sleep because it forces them to relive the fear and loss of control from the crash. These nightmares follow them into their waking hours, as they reel from the emotional effects hours after getting out of bed.

Some researchers believe dreaming is how the brain works through trauma. It’s a hopeful theory, but not a fun reality for actual accident survivors. For a few survivors, the thought of going to sleep can be anxiety-inducing. This puts them in a catch-22—for the brain to process trauma in a healthy way, it needs sleep. But if they sleep, they run the risk of reliving that trauma.

There are a variety of healthy ways that can help you cope with your nightmares. Here are a few:

#1: Record Your Dreams & Nightmares

If you’re seeing a therapist, your dreams might offer information that will help with therapy. Keep a notebook or phone next to your bed. As soon as you wake up from a troubling dream, write down the basic themes: what did it make you feel? What happened? What images stood out? This information might help your therapist walk you through some of the trauma your brain is dealing with.

#2: If You Can’t Sleep, Get Out of Bed

Staying in bed and worrying about all the sleep you’re not getting won’t help. If you can’t get to sleep within a normal amount of time, get up and do a self-soothing exercise. Meditation, breathing exercises, reading a book, or doing something that sedates your mind will make falling asleep easier. Worrying about insomnia or anxiety only adds to the fire—so step away and do something soothing.

#3: Practice Progressive Muscle Relaxation During the Day

Essentially, progressive muscle relaxation is an exercise where you intentionally release tension from your body from feet to head. Think of it as highly-purposeful pre-sleeping. We’re not relaxation experts, so we’ll direct you to a resource that will teach you how to relax your body and practice mindfulness muscle-by-muscle.

#4: Imagery Rehearsal Therapy (IRT)

IRT helps you create detailed, nonfighting endings for repeated nightmares. Therefore, when a nightmare replays in your head, it no longer upsets you. Writing down and rehearsing these new endings is also beneficial. Research shows that IRT can help reduce the occurrence of nightmares.

Need Resources After a Car Accident? Call for Help.

HHR’s mission is to help car accident survivors get their lives back. Sometimes that means paying for medical care and a higher insurance payout—other times, it means being able to afford a therapist for physical and emotional injuries. Whatever you need, we’re here to help you get it. Call us to share your story—we can tell you if you have a case and what we’ll be able to do for you.

Call (888) 498-3023 or use our short online form to get a free consultation on your accident.

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