Recent Advancements in Treating Sleep Disorders in Veterans with PTSD

Sleep disorders contribute to major depression, substance abuse, impaired daytime functioning, negative health consequences, and suicide risk.  Individuals with PTSD are more likely to have sleep disorders such as insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and nightmares.  It is known that untreated sleep disorders can interfere with PTSD treatment, so addressing sleep disorders in Veterans with PTSD is crucial to improving their medical and mental health and quality of life.

Disrupted REM Sleep, Memory, and PTSD

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and sleep problems are common among Service Members and military Veterans. Sleep problems may interfere with ability to recover from a traumatic event and can affect how well people with PTSD respond to current treatments.  Certain stages of sleep, such as rapid eye movement (REM) phase, are particularly important for retaining and modifying emotional and traumatic memories.  CESAMH investigator Dr. Risbrough and colleagues are examining the role of REM sleep in how fear memories are retained.  They are also looking at whether or not loss of REM affects people’s ability to regulate their responses to fearful and emotional memories.  To accomplish this, individual’s REM sleep will be altered either by disrupting it (waking people up) or changing circadian rhythms, the body’s clock (similar to the effects of jet lag).  The researchers will study the effect of altering REM sleep on fear memory processes that are associated with developing and recovering from PTSD. Also, they will examine medications that increase REM during sleep to see if this improves the ability to regulate fear memory responses.  Findings from this project may lead to new treatments for PTSD and potential new ways to prevent the development of PTSD.

Improving Sleep for Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury

The recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have brought much needed attention to Traumatic Brain injury (TBI), which occurs in about 19.5% of deployed service members. For many Veterans, mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) can be associated with many symptoms that persist after injury such as depression, headaches, dizziness, tinnitus, fatigue, trouble with concentration, mood shifts, behavioral changes, seizures, and especially sleep disturbances.

Fear, Safety and the Role of Sleep in Human PTSD

The effectiveness of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment may hinge significantly upon sleep quality, report researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System in a paper published today in the Journal of Neuroscience.