Sleep Problems


Hello Adam,

I don't know if you can help. But, I will give it a shot. Instead of going fully into the story, I will give you a brief description of what is going on.
I have complex post traumatic stress disorder with a near death I had experienced a few years ago. I had been on medication (I am no longer on medication now) and have completed therapy. I still have ongoing chronic pain and suffer panic attacks. Been to doctor's and they have gave me a clean bill of health and say it's all psycho-somatic symptoms and there is nothing else they can do for me. I just have to keep going with the tools and skills I have learned to cope with PTSD.

Okay, my problem now is sleep. Doctor's have ruled out sleep apnea and are confused to what it can be. I have checked online and it comes up as PTSD symptom, though I am not sure. I have suffered trauma for years and never suffered this terrifying symptom once. Until this year.

What happens is: I lie on my left side, ready to fall asleep, close my eyes and let my mind drift wherever it wants to go. Then suddenly, it's like I lose awareness of myself (gathering this must be me ready to slip into unconscious sleep) but then, I suddenly become very aware that my body hasn't been breathing. Immediately after this awareness I feel this flutter in my chest, soon it turns into a tidal wave of my insides rising upwards (like being on a roller coaster) then within seconds of all this happening, I jolt wide awake, gasping for breath and my heart starts to shudder and hammer inside my ribcage. 

At first I thought it was panic attacks. Because it happens so much, I have now lost the fear of it and let it happen. It now happens every minute and lasts for the next 2-3 hours before I finally fall asleep. It's becoming so frustrating that no-one knows what it is. Medically everything seems to be fine. 

What do you think it could be? Have you ever had experience of this? Have you ever heard of this?

Grateful for any reply, suggestion, advice of help you may have to offer.



Hi Grant,

Well, no, I have not heard of anything like this specifically. I am not sure what to say.

In my experience with myself and others, I can say that sleep can be aided by grounding. Sometimes it's called earthing. It's just a way to re-balance attention throughout the whole body and back to the earth, rather than all of the energy automatically flooding into the head and brain.

Just feel (as strange as it may sound) that your entire body is like a tree, with roots that are already connected deep into the Earth beneath. It may help to be aware of the building you are in, then to feel the building's connection to the Earth, and use that to connect with. Just feel that your whole body is connected, tied to the huge Earth beneath, and that as you become more aware of it, the roots connecting you become stronger and thicker and go deeper and deeper. Then remain like that. All other thoughts or sensations that may come are not to be given importance, not accepted or rejected, just feel the strong connection to the earth. Prayer can help with this, if that resonates with you.

I made an audio meditation on grounding a while ago that you can listen to for free: click here.

It sounds like while the body has gone into sleep-mode, the mind is still awake and does not want to let go into sleep. Does this experience feel a bit like dying, or like death may come since the breath seems to have stopped? The same nothingness that can be feared as death, is perhaps similar to the nothingness of deep, dreamless sleep. Perhaps it is tied to this, the fear of death (which is not "wrong" in any way). 

I have just re-read your question and see that it was a near-death experience that began the PTSD. So perhaps that makes sense. Perhaps something inside is interpreting sleep as death.

So how can we remedy this? Grounding may well help, I advise you give 5-10 minutes to this before sleep, even whilst lying in bed.

I don't know if there is anything else you can specifically do whilst lying in bed. Perhaps this occurrence is just a by-product of a background daily fear, or what we might call the PTSD. Is there anything that troubles you during the day, any recurring fears that continue to spring up? Comment below if you wish, and perhaps we could discuss it further. I'm not sure if your chronic pain is from physical or emotional injury, but perhaps the fear of this kind of pain is linked to the experience of death, which may not be too different from the experience of sleep.

I don't know, I'm just saying or asking what comes up.

Does any of that resonate or help? If you wish to reply, I might have more to say. Give the grounding thing a try, just as an experiment.

If you have not seen it, there is a sleep section on this site, but the main thing that may be helpful (grounding), I have already mentioned.


Comments for Sleep Problems

(from previous website)

Jul 21, 2015
Grounding helped 
by: Grant

Hi Adam, 
Thank you for your reply. The grounding technique you mentioned and the video link helped me last night. I still had the surge of energy in my body and the feeling I wasn't breathing. However, my partner decided to observe me last night and mentioned that once I drifted off to sleep, my breathing was completely normal. 

You said "Perhaps something inside is interpreting sleep as death." 

I totally agree with this immensely. 

Thank you for your time Adam.

Jul 21, 2015
by: Adam -

You may find that if you turn it into a habit, just a 5-10 minute thing before sleep, the grounding may feel stronger and easier and more effortless, and it may gradually increase in its "potency" to help with this. You can also "ground" at any point during your day, even if it is just feeling your feet on the floor. 

Having a deeper understanding of why this surge/panic may be happening will help, and if possible, relax any ideas of this being a permanent thing that will not go away. Everything passes. I don't feel like you have to manage it or give a lot of energy into "fixing" this, but let attention merge with grounding, and let go into sleep. 

If something still interprets sleep as death, then die willingly. 

Thanks for your response, I'm glad it could help in some way. 

Best of luck,