Ways People With PTSD Can Prevent Memory Loss

Mindfulness and better sleep can help

If you have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you may notice that you have trouble concentrating or that you have issues with your memory, such as memory loss.

In fact, memory and concentration problems are common symptoms of PTSD. People with PTSD also often experience difficulties sleeping, and poor sleep can further impact your ability to concentrate and stay focused during the day.

Fortunately, there are a few things that you can do to improve your memory and boost your concentration skills when you have PTSD. Here are a few options to consider.

Improve Your Sleep

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Studies have found that sleep problems are one of the most commonly reported symptoms by people with PTSD. This includes experiencing insomnia, having nightmares, or even developing sleep-related breathing disorders such as sleep apnea.

Poor sleep can have a tremendous negative influence on your ability to concentrate and stay focused during the day. By practicing good sleep hygiene and improving your sleep, you can also improve your concentration and ability to remember important information and facts.

The best way to improve your sleep depends on your specific sleep issue. Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTI) is recommended as a first-line treatment for chronic insomnia. Another helpful exercise for insomnia is to relax your muscles one by one, working your way down your body. This is called progressive muscle relaxation.

Journaling might reduce your insomnia, as well. Writing for 15 minutes per day can help relieve feelings of depression and anxiety in just a few weeks. It works by allowing you to get your worries, fears, and stress out on paper, so you don't lie awake thinking about them.

If it is nightmares that are keeping you from getting good sleep, imagery rehearsal therapy may help. This involves working with a therapist to change the ending of your reoccurring bad dreams so they aren't as troublesome.

Sleep-related breathing issues can be dangerous to your health, especially if they are not controlled. Therefore, working with your doctor to determine the best course of treatment is important.

Work on Your Mindfulness

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PTSD symptoms can be very distracting. You may find that you spend so much time focused on your fear, anger, or shame, for instance, that it affects your memory. One way to overcome this is to become more mindful.

Mindfulness involves being in the here and now. It requires letting go of the past, not worrying about the future, and being totally present in what is happening this moment. Ultimately, this removes your mental distractions.

You can improve your ability to stay in the present by practicing mindfulness meditation. Spend a few minutes each day sitting in a quiet, comfortable place and pay attention to your body as you breathe in and out. Try to clear your mind of all thoughts. When your mind wanders (and it will), just put those thoughts aside and bring your attention back to your breath.

Mindfulness meditation not only increases self-awareness and attention control, but it also helps you better regulate your emotions. So, it offers many benefits beyond those related to PTSD and memory loss.

Download Memory-Boosting Apps

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Technology today can help you improve most any area of your life. There are hypnosis apps, for instance, that can assist you with everything from weight loss to reducing your anxiety.

Other apps have been designed to help you improve your memory, enhance your recall ability, and increase your retention of information. One study found that 65% of users felt that they had better memories because of the apps. Roughly 67% said that they could also think better and 69% said the apps improved their attention.

Brain games and brain training apps and websites are a fun way to work on focus and memory skills, so you can remember the things you need. Plus, you can use them anywhere as long as you have your tablet or phone and a good internet connection.

Talk With a Professional

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Research reveals that people with PTSD-associated memory issues sometimes have a harder time finding treatments that resolve certain symptoms, such as nightmares. In cases such as these, talking to a medical or mental health professional can help you find the best treatment for you.

PTSD treatment options often include taking medications and engaging in psychotherapy. Complementary and alternative therapies exist, as well, and include options like yoga and acupuncture. These might be helpful along with traditional treatments.

You don't have to live with memory loss when you have PTSD. Working with your doctor can help you decide which therapies could be the most beneficial for preventing or reducing your PTSD memory issues.

7 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Matthew Tull, PhD
Matthew Tull, PhD is a professor of psychology at the University of Toledo, specializing in post-traumatic stress disorder.