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Why Does Sleep Deprivation “Turn Off” My PTSD Symptoms?

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I have some sort of dissociation or ptsd from a traumatic event when I was 18 that has affected my life in a way that leaves me feeling like I’m not actually living in my life (I know it sounds crazy).

But that’s not the interesting thing as I can manage and live a relatively normal life. The interesting this is that today I had a realization that when I am sleep deprived (like running on 4 or 5 hours of sleep) my symptoms go away and I feel completely back to my senses like before the trauma. I can also achieve this feeling when I use marijuana but I’m not really a fan so I don’;t really…

Any ideas on what is happening? Why does sleep deprivation or marijuana “turn off” my illness?

Why Does Sleep Deprivation “Turn Off” My PTSD Symptoms?

Answered by on -


Such treatments as Brainspotting and EMDR indicate that memory of traumatic events may be state and pathway dependent in the brain. Due to the brain’s plasticity these interventions have been know to “reset” the memories of the trauma. My best guess is that the sleep deprivation and the marijuana are somehow blocking the pathways accessing these memories, but of course that would be pure speculation. Here is an article about what scientists believe is happening in the brain during Brainspotting that might shed some light on what is happening.

Regardless of why I believe the more important take-away is that there is an indication you can get relief. I highly recommend you arrange to meet with a trauma therapist (check out the find help tab at the top of this page) who can guide you toward interventions that don’t require you to sleep-deprive yourself or get high.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

Why Does Sleep Deprivation “Turn Off” My PTSD Symptoms?

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2018). Why Does Sleep Deprivation “Turn Off” My PTSD Symptoms?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 3, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 11 Nov 2018 (Originally: 13 Nov 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 11 Nov 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.