Does EMDR Make You Tired?

Written By

Dr. Azhar Qureshi

Updated:

Fact Checked

Does Emdr Make You Tired

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EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is an increasingly popular psychotherapy treatment that has been proven effective for conditions like PTSD, anxiety, and trauma.

An intriguing element of EMDR is the eye movements component. As part of the treatment, the therapist will have you follow their hand back and forth with your eyes while recalling distressing memories. This element leads many to wonder – does EMDR make you tired?

What is EMDR Therapy?

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is an interactive psychotherapy treatment originally designed to alleviate psychological stress associated with traumatic memories.

  • During EMDR sessions, clients recall traumatic or triggering events while simultaneously focusing on an external stimulus, traditionally therapist-directed lateral eye movements.
  • EMDR helps activate the brain’s innate processing system to heal from trauma.

The Eye Movement Component of EMDR

A core component of EMDR that sets it apart from traditional talk therapy modalities is the inclusion of bilateral stimulation – tapping or eye movements.

  • As the client recalls a distressing memory, the therapist has them follow rhythmic left-right eye movements.
  • This works to help process the traumatic memories and disturbing feelings.

Over time, EMDR therapy appears able to desensitize clients to past trauma by reprocessing these memories into less disturbing forms with new adaptive beliefs.

Why Eye Movements?

Research indicates that the left-right eye movements in EMDR help facilitate access to traumatic memories while alleviating the overwhelming emotions that previously hindered processing them.

  • Making these rhythmic left-right eye movements is thought to mimic rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
  • This appears to help both hemispheres of the brain integrate traumatic memories so they cause less emotional turmoil.
man sitting in lotus position and facing bright light

Does EMDR Therapy Cause Fatigue?

Many individuals wonder if all the concentration involved with EMDR – recalling trauma while simultaneously focusing on external bilateral stimulation – leaves them drained or tired.

The short answer is: sometimes, but not always.

EMDR often reduces anxiety and distress over time. As clients get used to processing traumatic memories with new coping techniques during sessions, it can become less exhausting and ease feelings of emotional tension overall.

However, some fatigue is common initially. Let’s analyze the reasons why EMDR may or may not lead to tiredness:

Reasons Why EMDR Might Make You Tired

  • Mentally draining process – Focusing inward on traumatic memories then forcing your eyes to track external movements is mentally tiring.
  • Emotional release – Processing old emotions can be cathartic but also leave you feeling wiped.
  • Habituation – If new to therapy, focusing intensely on emotions for 50 mins can be draining.
Common Feeling Immediately After EMDR Session
Brain fog
Emotional fatigue
Physically tired

Reasons Why EMDR Might NOT Make You Tired

  • Adaptive processing – Brain starts to digest old stuck trauma material more efficiently.
  • Desensitization – Memories lose emotional charge, so don’t require the same mental energy.
  • Improved sleep – EMDR often reduces insomnia, leading to more restorative rest.

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Tips to Prevent EMDR Fatigue

Many clients learn to adapt well to EMDR treatment. But while you adjust, consider these tips to mitigate excessive tiredness or fatigue both during and after sessions:

  • Ensure proper nutrition and hydration before your appointment
  • Avoid caffeine for at least 3 hours pre-session as it can amplify anxious feelings
  • Have a peaceful activity planned for afterwards – not work or chores
  • Take it easy on yourself the rest of day of your session
  • Prioritize sleep hygiene to ensure high quality rest day and night
  • Consider spacing out sessions to every other week if fatigue persists

The brain does a lot of work consolidating traumatic memories after EMDR. Making lifestyle adjustments to accommodate this can help prevent tapping out your mental energy.

Bottom Line

While EMDR offers therapeutic benefits by reprocessing old trauma material, focusing intensely on disturbing memories while concentrating on external stimuli can be draining at first.

As the brain trains itself to digest traumatic associations more smoothly, that fatigue often lessens over time. 

Using EMDR to treat PTSD and trauma can pay dividends for long-term mental health, but be patient with yourself through temporary tiredness as old wounds heal.

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EMDR Therapy: Understanding how it works

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About the author

Dr. Azhar Qureshi

Dr. Azhar Qureshi

As a physician and cardiologist, my training encompassed a comprehensive range of invasive and noninvasive procedures, providing extensive hands-on experience in echocardiography, cardiac stress testing, diagnostic catheterization, and coronary interventions. In addition, I developed skills in psychological assessments and formulating detailed case reports. This multifaceted training has equipped me with a strong foundation across cardiology, psychological studies, and documentation to support my medical research. I am passionate about medical writing and exchanging knowledge to help the global community. Social

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