Obstructive sleep apnea affects around 20 million Americans and can lead to hypertension, heart attack, stroke, depression, muscle pain, fibromyalgia, morning headaches, and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sleep Apnea and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

As we experience the return of another generation of veterans of foreign wars, we have to prepare ourselves for the onset of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in thousands of veterans. And for many sufferers of PTSD, sleep apnea is either a contributing cause or, at least, what is known as a comorbidity, a disease that occurs alongside as a result of the same causes. If we are to facilitate the transition of veterans and others back into normal life following traumatic events, diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea must be part of the solution.

In one study of crime victims suffering from PTSD, 90 % of the victims also suffered from respiratory disruption, and half also suffered from obstructive sleep apnea. Other studies have found similar results, and it has been determined that insomnia and daytime sleepiness within a month after the traumatic event are important predictors for the development of PTSD.

With PTSD, as with obesity, it is hard to determine which came first. But sleep apnea saps a person's mental and physical resources for dealing with life events. Since it is impossible to predict who will suffer from PTSD after a traumatic event, all that we can say is that people with sleep disorders are more likely to develop PTSD.

In one case study of a Vietnam Veteran who suffered from both sleep apnea and PTSD, the treatment of sleep apnea led to a significant reduction in PTSD symptoms. The man had frequent waking episodes, often accompanied by choking, and he complained of nightmares and flashbacks to his combat experience. Once the man began CPAP treatment, and his level of REM sleep increased, his PTSD all improved. His doctors attributed this in part to the dramatic reduction of his waking instances during REM sleep and more time spent in REM sleep.

If you or a loved one have suffered a traumatic event and are finding it hard to get back to normal life. If your sleep is disrupted and you fear for your physical and mental health, sleep apnea might be part of the problem, and treatment part of the solution. Schedule a sleep apnea consultation at the Snoring and Sleep Apnea Treatment Center in Gurnee, Illinois today.

posted by Dr. Candelaria at 2:40 PM