PTSD Awareness Month: Connecting the dots with sleep disorders

June 2017 ptsd awareness monthJune is PTSD Awareness Month, and the American Sleep Apnea Association is here to help those who are suffering from the many invasive problems with sleep that are part of life with PTSD. Our Sleeptember® forums have lots of discussions about PTSD to help you find the support you need (see the full list here).

What is PTSD?

PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and refers to specific behaviors, including devastating sleep problems, associated with the results of suffered trauma.

The trauma experienced could be physical, emotional, physical, sexual, or psychological. It could be recent raw trauma such as the survival of a horrific event, or it could be traumatic experiences repressed from childhood.

Sleep-wake disorders suffered by those with PTSD include insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, nightmare disorders, idiopathic hypersomnia, and bedwetting, among others. Symptoms and behaviors related to sleep and PTSD include automatic behavior, sleep walking, sleep talking, excessive daytime sleepiness, sleep paralysis, mood dysregulation, suicidal ideation, hallucinations upon falling asleep or awakening, and more.

PTSD is not considered only psychological, but a whole-body expression of the trauma (or multiple traumas) experienced. For more reading:

PTSD Awareness Month: Connecting the Dots between PTSD and sleep

We’ve collected a Top Ten list of links you can peruse regarding five areas in which PTSD has a distinct relationship with sleep health: The Military, Trauma, Women (Female), Therapies, and Neuroscience.


The Military Connection

olive and brown dot squareThe most obvious connection between poor sleep and PTSD exists within our military communities. Insomnia, nightmares, sleep apnea, and extreme daytime fatigue are hallmarks of sleep problems that impact those who’ve seen combat.

  1. These Are The Troops Most Affected By The Military’s Worsening Sleep Problem (Task & Purpose, May 17, 2017)
  2. Mobile App Helps Service Members, Veterans Rescript Nightmares (Sleep Review, May 1, 2017)
  3. Veteran crippled by PTSD fears the condition may have claimed up to six lives in his regiment (Wales Online, May 1, 2017)
  4. Warrior Care Network Targets Sleep Issues in Wounded Veterans (Wounded Warrior Project, April 25, 2017)
  5. Lawsuit: Army Should Factor PTSD in Discharge Decisions (, April 17, 2017)
  6. GI Jane Needs A Place To Sleep (Huffington Post, April 13, 2017)
  7. Army doctor discovers new sleep disorder (Fort Leavenworth Lamp, March 23, 2017)
  8. Study of U.S. Navy healthcare personnel finds higher PTSD risk among women than men (, March 2, 2017)
  9. SPECIAL REPORT: Female vets with PTSD (NewsWest 9, February 13, 2017)
  10. Legislation introduced to combat PTSD in Veterans (KTTN, January 16, 2017)

The Trauma Connection

blue black dot squareTrauma can happen even in those outside the military. It can also impact first responders, survivors of natural or manmade disasters, people living in war zones, those suffering from adverse childhood experiences (ACE), assault and abuse victims (sexual, physical, emotional), witnesses of tragic or horrible events, car accident survivors, and anyone who has sustained major head or body trauma.

  1. Legislation must change for workplace PTSD, says Yukon flight nurse (CBC News, May 18, 2017)
  2. Addressing trauma issues (Newcastle Herald, April 28, 2017)
  3. Sewol ferry survivors struggle with PTSD (Korea Biomedical Review, April 14, 2017)
  4. Interpersonal abuse in early life may lead to concentration issues later in life (MedicalXPress, April 10, 2017)
  5. Firefighters and The Struggle With Sleep (Fire Engineering, April 3, 2017)
  6. Rape costs survivors stress, trust, sleep and about $122,000 (USA Today, April 3, 2017)
  7. Healing first responders through critical incident stress management interventions (EMS1, March 27, 2017)
  8. The ‘Anticipatory Anxiety’ of Waiting for Disaster (The Atlantic, March 16, 2017)
  9. Bills filed to help first responders fight PTSD (WEAR TV, March 13, 2017)
  10. Moderators who had to view child abuse content sue Microsoft, claiming PTSD (The Guardian, January 11, 2017)

The Female Connection

purple incomplete dot squarePeople might be surprised to learn that PTSD (and its sleep disturbances) can have a wide-ranging impact on women. Trauma from ACEs, sexual assault, childbirth, domestic violence, or life in a combat zone can all lead to ongoing problems with insomnia, nightmares, and other behaviors that impact sleep.

  1. PTSD affects 1 in 11 new moms… so why don’t we hear more about it? (Today, May 16, 2017)
  2. Postpartum PTSD: Beyond Postpartum Depression in Maternal Mental Health (Psychiatry Advisor, May 12, 2017)
  3. ‘Scream Queens’ Star Abigail Breslin Says She Was Diagnosed With PTSD After Being Raped (Women’s Health, April 25, 2017)
  4. PTSD in Women Linked to Cognitive Impairment (Medscape Pulmonary Medicine, April 10, 2017)
  5. Freed From ISIS, Yazidi Women Remain Trapped By Trauma (Huffington Post, March 28, 2017)
  6. The Shocking Domestic Violence Facts You Should Know on International Women’s Day (Health, March 8,  2017)
  7. ‘I lost five babies due to husband’s violent nightmares’ (BBC News, March 7, 2017)
  8. When All You Want to Do (but All You Want to Avoid) Is Sleep (The Mighty, March 7, 2017)
  9. Estrogen Levels Influence Susceptibility to PTSD (PsychCentral, January 20, 2017)
  10. Postnatal PTSD or birth trauma (, January 4, 2017)

The Therapeutic Connection

blue plus dot squareThe problem of PTSD has grown exponentially, but so too have efforts to treat, prevent, and potentially cure it. This includes pharmaceuticals, behavioral changes, occupational or recreational therapies, even neurological approaches. Just the act of communicating the anxiety and distress that are consistent with long-term PTSD in different media can help liberate some people by reminding them they aren’t alone.

  1. Fighting PTSD with martial arts (WQAD 8, May 24, 2017)
  2. For Veterans With PTSD, Medical Marijuana Can Mean a Good Night’s Sleep (Leafly, May 23, 2017)
  3. Surviving genocide: Storytelling and ritual help communities heal (Science, May 16, 2017)
  4. Tonix could get 2019 nod for breakthrough-badged PTSD therapy: analysts (Fierce BioTech, April 20, 2017)
  5. Playing Tetris could prevent car crash victims developing post-traumatic stress disorder (Mirror, March 28, 2017)
  6. What To Do If You Can’t Stop Having Nightmares (Refinery 29 March 28, 2017)
  7. How Hypnotherapy Can Be Used to Treat PTSD (Paste, March 20, 2017)
  8. Can Virtual Reality Help Cure PTSD? (MedicalXPress, March 20, 2017)
  9. Study Underway on Marijuana Treatment for PTSD in Veterans (NBC San Diego, February 15, 2017)
  10. New documentary offers hope to all types of PTSD sufferers (Local XPress, January 18, 2017)

The Neuroscience Connection

With red and yellow dot squarehelp coming from sophisticated new approaches in neuroscience, PTSD and the sleep problems it brings can be investigated at levels never seen before. Understanding the neurobiology and genetics of trauma and objectively measuring its impact on the sleep-wake process and mood regulation will go a long way toward helping scientists find the best treatments for those who suffer.


  1. The characteristics of nightmares vs sleep terrors (Clinical Advisor, April 12, 2017)
  2. Genes May Govern Your Risk for PTSD (HealthDay News, April 6, 2017)
  3. A ‘brainwave’ to help fight PTSD (MedicalXPress, March 20, 2017)
  4. PTSD risk can be predicted by hormone levels prior to deployment, study says (University of Texas at Austin, March 7, 2017)
  5. CPAP for Sleep Apnea May Also Improve PTSD in Veterans (Neurology Advisor, March 1, 2017)
  6. Memories could be erased to cure soldiers of PTSD, say scientists (The Telegraph, February 18, 2017)
  7. Researchers detail novel underlying mechanism involved in PTSD and other anxiety disorders (MedicalxPress, January 23, 2017)
  8. Study reveals areas of the brain impacted by PTSD (Boston University Medical Center, January 20, 2017)
  9. A Psychiatrist’s Quest to Understand PTSD (The Wall Street Journal, January 6, 2017)
  10. Sleep May Help People Process Traumatic Events (HealthDay News, January 2, 2017)

If you or a loved one is suffering from nightmares, night terrors, insomnia, sleep deprivation, excessive daytime fatigue, or other sleep-wake behaviors linked to trauma, and you need to reach out for answers or support from others going through the same thing, please consider visiting the PTSD discussions in our Sleeptember® forum.