Navigating Nightmares After Betrayal: Strategies for Healing

If you are experiencing nightmares after discovering infidelity, you are not alone. After betrayal, nightmares can be very common. In this post, I want to discuss some practical ways of supporting ourselves through this challenging and highly stressful consequence of infidelity. Nightmares are frightening and exhausting, and nightmares torment our already overwhelmed hearts after infidelity.

Coping With Betrayal Trauma

Infidelity is probably one of the most painful things to suffer in life. After we first discover the infidelity, it can feel as if there is no escape from the betrayal trauma and pain. Our brains are hijacked by intrusive thoughts day and night due to the betrayal trauma. And often, nightmares are experienced as we relive the trauma infidelity has caused us.

  • So why do we have nightmares after infidelity?
  • Didn’t we outgrow having nightmares as we graduated into adulthood?
  • And what is a nightmare?

Nightmares and night terrors wake us up shaking with fear.

Nightmare or Night Terror?

First, let’s differentiate between nightmares and night terrors. While nightmares and night terrors cause us to wake up shaking in fear, they are not the same. Yet they can both occur after infidelity.

Night terrors usually occur within the first few hours of falling asleep during the non-REM stage of sleep. We experience them as feelings, not dreams. This is why we can’t recall why we have woken up so terrified or upset. In some instances, we don’t actually recall the experience until our partner tells us the next morning that they heard us crying or screaming during the night. Stress and exhaustion are common causes of night terrors.

Waking up screaming is not a sign of mental illness but more likely a consequence of being overloaded with infidelity stress and trauma. Discovering and grieving from infidelity is highly stressful and traumatic. A result of infidelity can cause night terrors.

On the other hand, nightmares occur during REM sleep, when most dreaming takes place. We are jolted out of sleep in heart-pounding fear, aware of the vivid events that played in our heads. Nightmares often happen in the early hours of the morning and are entirely spontaneous. Nightmares are far more than just bad dreams. They can have a significant impact on us and deprive us of our much-needed sleep. Like night terrors, nightmares are also a consequence of infidelity trauma and stress.

Stress: A Major Contributing Factor of Nightmares After Infidelity

The stress of infidelity can trigger nightmares

Discovering that the life we thought we had was very different is an incredibly stressful event. Stress is a major contributing factor in triggering nightmares or night terrors. Infidelity is stressful! Nightmares are not a sign that you are weak or mentally unstable but that you are in betrayal trauma and need to process the harrowing event.

However, experiencing nightmares can be overwhelming. It feels like no peace to be found, day or night. Thankfully there are some simple and practical steps we can take to lessen the frequency of experiencing nightmares after infidelity.

Practical Steps to Quell Nightmares

  • If you are taking medication for depression or blood pressure, please check with your doctor as some medications may increase the likelihood of having a nightmare. 
  • Suffering from restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea also increases your chances of having regular nightmares. Getting the correct treatment for these will significantly reduce your stress and the likelihood of having nightmares.
  • Breathing through the mouth can lead to increased stress and hinder the ability to achieve deep sleep, which is necessary for healing, repair, and recovery. Practicing nasal breathing during the day and using mouth tape at night can promote better sleep.
  • Avoiding late-night snacks helps us in avoiding nightmares, as these snacks cause the brain to become more active during sleep which may induce nightmares.
  • Alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine also disrupt sleep which causes more stress for your body and increases the chances of having a nightmare.
Good sleep hygiene can help  prevent nightmares

Good sleep hygiene can help prevent nightmares

  • Keeping a regular wake-sleep schedule is a super practical way of avoiding nightmares. This includes making your bedroom a tranquil place to be.
  • Avoid talking about the affair when you go to bed. While you may find it convenient to discuss it when you are in bed, a more beneficial time would be for you to book a time during the day to discuss the infidelity outside of your bedroom.  Your bedroom should be kept as a place to sleep.
  • Sleep deprivation is a serious problem after experiencing infidelity.  Being sleep deprived only increases the stress you are experiencing which can trigger a nightmare. Do all you can to give yourself rest during this traumatic time, including keeping a strict sleep schedule as part of your self-care.
  • Exercise reduces our stress levels, and this helps us avoid nightmares. Doing gentle yoga stretches before bed may help alleviate our nightmare-causing anxiety and stress.
  • By incorporating regular relaxation techniques throughout your day, like mindful body scans and breathing exercises, you support your stress reduction so that nightmares can be avoided.

Crafting Your Post-Nightmare Routine

A nightmare leaves you in a very triggered state. Immediately after a nightmare, it's usually better not to ruminate over it or talk about it straight away. Thinking or talking about it will keep you in that stressed state by reliving the fear and prolonging the nightmares impact. Your return to a relaxed state and hopefully getting quickly back to sleep would be more beneficial during the early hours of the night.

The nightmare can be discussed during daylight hours if necessary with your partner or a support person. However, during the night, let the memory of the nightmare fade by getting up immediately and washing your face or drinking a glass of water. Then return to bed and do a mindful body scan or the sleep audio in the self-care course so you can go back to sleep or at least rest your body until morning. 

Create a plan to reduce the stress

Creating a post nightmare plan to calm yourself relieves the worry and stress that having one brings. Reciting healing mantras can fill your mind with more healing thoughts to ease the stress caused by the nightmare and the betrayal trauma.

And if your partner is willing, perhaps they can also support you with a gentle massage or agree to listen to a guided sleep story or a relaxation and mindful healing script while you both return to sleep.

The Power of Self-Care in Reducing Nightmares

By prioritizing our self-care, we reduce the likelihood of having a nightmare. But if we experience one, it gives us the capacity to move out of the stressful state the nightmare caused. We can better heal betrayal trauma and move into a calm place when we are full of self-care and have self-care tools to draw upon.

Giving voice to our infidelity pain with a safe person and learning to accept what we are going through helps us process our stress. Talking about how we feel and being listened to and given empathy is a healing balm to our shattered hearts. As we reduce our stress and grieve the losses of infidelity, the betrayal trauma and nightmares usually lessen and cease.  

Don't struggle alone; get the support you need after infidelity

Don't struggle alone; get the support you need after infidelity

If you're struggling to heal from infidelity, don't suffer alone. Schedule a free call with me to receive personalized support and guidance on your journey to self-care and healing. Remember, self-care is key to reducing nightmares and finding peace after betrayal. Don't wait to get the help you need - take action now to start your journey towards healing.

Much love,

You may also find these helpful:

Navigating Betrayal Shame and Healing from Infidelity in Marriage
Unveiling the Truth About Micro-Cheating: Signs and Solutions
Empathy and Self-Compassion: Finding Healing for Betrayed Wives

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About the Author

I am a certified life coach and relationship facilitator with a passion for supporting women who have been impacted by infidelity. Drawing on my personal experiences and deep insights, I am dedicated to helping my clients heal from the trauma of betrayal and reclaim their lives.

Through one-on-one coaching, I am committed to providing a safe, supportive space for women to process their emotions and move forward after infidelity. You can find me in my vegetable garden or taking long walks in nature with my dog when I'm not working. Read more about  the betrayed wife's personal infidelity story...