By Dr. Victoria Risbrough
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.