Sleep can be elusive following a sexual assault for many reasons. You may have a lot of anxiety causing you to toss and turn. Sexual assaults can also trigger bouts of depression in people who regularly struggle with the disease. I have also worked with people who were afraid to sleep because sleep is a very vulnerable state of being. They may logically know that being assaulted again is unlikely, but their body has not yet caught up to that realization.
Some common symptoms of post-traumatic stress may be experiencing symptoms of hyper-vigilance, or being on high alert all the time. This may look like being unable to go to sleep without a partner or a trusted pet. You might be methodically checking locks and doors several times and losing prime sleep time due to this routine. Another common symptom of post-traumatic stress can be nightmares. Your mind may re-experience parts of the assault while it is trying to process what has happened to you. However, this processing will get interrupted because scary dreams often jolt us awake. It like putting a penny on a record player and watching the song skip back to the beginning. Therapy can help you remove the penny. In the meantime, just improving sleep can relieve a lot of stress and improve your ability to function in your day. Here are some tips to gaining back an hour or two of precious ZZZs.
1. Don't Count Sheep
This is one of the biggest sleep myths. Counting sheep in your head, or counting anything, is over-stimulating. Similarly, rehearsing what you plan to say or get done the next day only serves to exasperate insomnia. If you want to get to sleep try concentrating on light reading or listening to a mindfulness exercise on Youtube instead.
I am so jealous of babies and toddlers who can go to sleep in strange contortions and all situations. Moreover, babies frequently and immediately go into (REM) Rapid Eye Movement sleep, the deep sleep that yields us the best rest. If you are waking up frequently in the night due to anxiety or post-traumatic stress, your sleep may be interrupted before you get to REM. Furthermore, if you are struggling with depression you may be sleeping too much without feeling rested or sleeping too little due to insomnia. All in all, REM can be very elusive when battling mental health issues, especially those resultant of domestic violence & sexual abuse. This means we can no longer leave a precious affair such as sleep up to chance.
What is good sleep hygiene anyway! It's a the conditions we practice for sleep, just what it sounds like. We must practice good hygiene around sleep the same way we practice good hygiene around our morning preparation for the day. Here are the top habits for better sleep hygiene:
1. Do Set A Bedtime
It may surprise you to think of sex as a tool to beat depression. First of all, let me be clear that intercourse is not the end all be all of your sex life. Masturbation during solo sex can be just as helpful. Sex is one component of holistic health. So if you're not engaging in some form of it, you doing yourself a disservice. Sex gets our happy hormones (dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin) going, thus can improve mood. Sex may help us feel closer to our partners. (Bonus: Ejaculation also clears out an enzyme that gets trapped behind the prostate decreasing risk of prostate cancer. And orgasm helps relieve menstrual cramps).
Ironically, low libido is caused by both depression itself and also by some common anti-depressants. In rarer case, orgasm can cause a sudden crash of low mood. This is called sexual anhedonia. However, there are tips and tricks to get through this. Depression can be managed if not cured!
When You're Too Tired to Have Sex
Not all fun things happen at night. Frequently my clients will tell me that they come home after a long days too tired to have sex. If you have not had sex for a while because depression has zapped your energy and killed your libido, then you may need to reschedule your date with sex. Consider having sex about an hour or two after your workout, or make a date for it the middle of the day. Having sex after light exercise also means you may have better blood flow to your genitals so that you can combat erectile dysfunction due to depression.
1/27/2018 0 Comments
I have been doing anti-sexual violence work for well over 10 years. I have had countless clients on my therapy couch, asking me if what happened to them was really rape. I've spoken to people who were ashamed because they were forcibly turned over and anally penetrated by their attacker but were confused about whether agreeing to perform oral sex earlier negated the violent act that came later. It does not. Anyone can consent to one act and not to the next. Rape is any coercive or forcible penetration of a bodily opening--vaginal, anal, or oral.
I do this work to lift silence around the issues of sexual assault, or rape, and to bring awareness to the pervasiveness. I am making a conscientious effort to say rape is rape. It does not have to result in post-traumatic stress disorder, time off work, or a lost career to be rape. There are enough lay people promoting the narrative that "coercion" amounts to a "bad date" in papers like The Atlantic and New York Magazine that I decided I had to provide clarity. This time the backlash involves Aziz Ansari.
Sexpert & psychotherapist, Quandra Chaffers, presents Sass-y comments on love, health, and relationships--Comments too tangential or racy for the therapy room.