Does post sleep traumatic disorder really rob people of much needed rest? There are a number of research studies to support this claim. This article will record some of those research studies to prove that this disorder can really disrupt a person’s sleep which in turn could affect other areas of their life.

People do not just imagine the disorder or that they are losing sleep because of the sleep disorder and it may be a common condition people suffer from. There are options to correct this condition. Did you know that even the right mattress may help to reverse this sleepless trend?

Disorders to Consider

One study suggests that  a person with post traumatic sleep disorder may have a direct correlation to their tendency to lose sleep over time. In fact, the study suggests that classic symptoms of post traumatic stress syndrome is the loss of sleep. This includes insomnia, daytime sleeping, vividness of nightmares. Somehow the disorder prevents the body from sleeping properly.    

A very sad side effect of this harmful cycle is that people will develop a very bad side disorder which is called substance use disorder to cope with the effects of the loss of sleep. So, the loss of sleep can be harmful in more than one way. This will turn into a vicious cycle as the person suffers from post traumatic sleep disorder and loss of sleep then they will turn to substance use and this will further deepen the loss of sleep symptoms. Now the person has aggravated their health even more they start out with post traumatic sleep disorder,  lack of sleep, substance abuse disorders, and now the person has deeper conflicts with loss of sleep issues.

If the person has come to this point they are worse off–much worse off–than when they developed the original disorder. The solution is to treat the post traumatic sleep disorder initially then all the rest of the health issues may be avoided. 

There are other types of sleeping disorders that will affect a person’s sleep in a negative way. People may suffer from excessive sleeping patterns as well, such as sleeping too long in the morning, sleeping in the afternoon, sleeping in the early evening. Some people may even fall asleep while they sit at work or they are sitting in front of their computers. 

Sleep is defined in a number of physiological actions including eye movements, muscle movements and brain activity. Obviously sleeping is a necessary function of life. If any of these patterns are disrupted this is another form of sleep deprivation. Sleepwalking is considered an interruption in sleep because the person is up and walking around. Instead of the person relaxing and getting a healthy sleep resting in bed. 

It has been recorded that 30-40% of the youth and adult population experience lack of sleep in one way or another, which is a fairly high sample of the population who are not sleeping properly. Lack of sleep can lead to severe health problems if the condition is left unattended such as cardiovascular issues, depression, anxiety disorders, decreased cognitive functions, memory loss, motor skills loss, inability to drive. 

Poor decision-making and it will start affecting everyday activities such as driving, sleeping, eating and job and school performance. It may lead to immune deficiencies, diabetes and maybe in extreme cases death. There are other psychologically-driven conditions that people with post traumatic sleeping disorder may have. They very well can co-exist with the sleeping disorder. 

People have even been to have hyper insomnia and the inability to fall into a deep or restorative sleep. Insomnia is a fairly common sleeping deficiency of post stress traumatic sleeping disorder. It may affect 5-6% of the adult population. Post traumatic stress disorder may affect 5 million Americans every year. This is a pretty significant number. Then there is the problem of those who suffer from the condition and either have not reported it or they do not even know they have the disorder. 

Post traumatic stress disorder occurs when a person experiences a traumatic event that is so overwhelming to them psychologically and physically they just do not get over it. The sad thing is that part–as was mentioned earlier–of the sleeping deprivation is caused by recurring nightmares and these nightmares can be about the traumatic event the person went through. It so overwhelms them that their mind keeps conjuring up these nightmares as a way to deal with the stress and trauma that a particular event caused on the mind and the body. The stress is so overwhelming the mind has to give itself and the body some kind of relief or escape so the mind will not snap or the body totally breaks down from the stressful event.

It is that the mind cannot tell reality from imagination in that the mind may think the event is really occurring constantly instead of just a one-time event that it really was. It can lead to destructive and tragic behavior especially if the person does not get help by having the disorder treated. And if the person is taking medication to keep symptoms under control and they cease to take the medication the results can be tragic.

Case Study in Tragedy

There was a crime program on television of this very reality occurring. This particular tragedy occurred in Colorado on New Year’s Eve and it involved law enforcement two roommates–one being a former member of the military–which ended in tragedy.The individual that suffered from post traumatic sleeping disorder was the former military member. 

former military member with PTSD

The military member may have been suffering from sleep deprivation and he was obviously showing signs of mental illness. Initially, he called 911 complaining that his roommate freaked out and that he was becoming aggressive with the roommate. So, the ex-military member shot a laser in his eye. He was concerned that he would be injured in the conflict. If he hadn’t slept well for a while, it took a very heavy toll on him mentally and physically. The sheriff’s deputies went out to the residence in response to the call.    

His other mistake was that he quit the very medication that was supposed to help him sleep and keep the disorder under control. The sheriffs went to the apartment and confronted the soldier trying to resolve the conflict. The military member from the beginning was very aggressive with the officers verbally. The military member said the officer was not listening to the subject.

The officer told the suspect to walk downstairs and talk with the officer. The conversation escalated and the suspect started yelling “rape rape” and the officer put his hand on the subject’s chest to restrain him. The officer told the subject to calm down or he would arrest the subject. The subject never did calm down and the officer’s partner went to talk to the roommate.

The roommate said the ex-military member became aggressive with him and he was concerned for his safety. The roommate was getting ready to go to work. The roommate said the ex-military member and he had a domestic relationship. The ex-military member denied this was occurring. The deputies thought they had reached an impasse in the conflict. 

A few hours later the ex-military member calls 911 again and says the roommate was out of control. This was a fabricated story because the roommate had already gone to work and was not present in the apartment at the time of the call. The same sheriffs and some new ones responded to the call again. The sheriff confronted the suspect as his door. The suspect opened the door slightly and started verbally attacking the officer and said he had asked for a restraining order against the roommate.

The suspect said the police officer did not treat him with respect in the previous engagement. The suspect demanded to know if the officer had received the information that the suspect had requested a restraining order. The suspect suddenly slammed the door shut and barricaded the door. The officers determined that the suspect was a threat to himself and his neighbors and needed to apprehend him and take him to jail for his safety and the safety of his neighbors.

The suspect would not open the door so the deputies had to break down the door and force their way into the apartment. In the meantime, the suspect had set all types of furniture in front of his door so the police could not apprehend him. He locked himself in the bedroom-earlier he had said he had guns in the house– and he would not come out. He had a small arsenal in his possession. The confrontation suddenly turned tragic as the suspect opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle from his bedroom. 

He fired countless rounds through the wall into the officers and the officers could not return fire as the onslaught came uncontrollably with bullets flying everywhere. Two officers made it out with one being shot in the arm and the other one shot severely in the chest. The one shot in the chest started gurgling and losing consciousness. 

The other two officers were still caught in the barrage of fire in the apartment. The female officer moved deeper into the apartment to get away from the fire and was shot 5 times in the ensuing fire. She managed to break the window glass and jump out the window down 3 stories. She broke her tibia but she got out. She returned to her teammates and they radioed for medical help immediately. The medical team arrived on the scene and administered what medical assistance they could while bullets were still flying in every direction. The crazed suspect was shooting through the outer brick wall leading away from the bedroom. The apartment complex was evacuated immediately as the officers tried to restore order. 

A swat team was called in to bring the conflict to a resolution. There was still one officer stuck in the apartment. The swat team killed the suspect at the scene by returning fire through the outer wall and they finally got into the apartment. The officer was shot multiple times at close range. The other wounded officers eventually recovered from their wounds and returned to work. The officer that was shot multiple times, died from his wounds. In all, there were neighbors that were hit by stray bullets and the crazed suspect had shot a total of 358 rounds in the siege. The suspect had called 911 fully knowing he was going to shoot to kill the officers. He lured them back to the apartment by lying. 

The scene ended tragically because the ex-military member suffered from post traumatic stress disorder and most likely had lost a lot of sleep. So, the loss of sleep can be tied to post traumatic sleeping disorder and will have tragic results if the person who is losing sleep does not immediately deal with the conditions.

A Limited Window

post traumatic stress disorder syndrome

Another study puts forth the theory that people will develop post traumatic stress disorder syndrome months after the traumatic event has taken place. The good part is that only a small percentage of people will develop the disorder. The researchers also think that when the signs of sleep deprivation start to appear that these are the beginning signs that post traumatic stress disorder is just around the corner. It is also feasible that from a lack of sleep extinction memory could be hindered so there are definite correlations between sleep deprivation and post traumatic stress disorder. Again, these researchers think that sleep deprivation will come first then the disorder will appear but this does not take place in every individual who has experienced a traumatic event or events.

Further studies have to be made to verify if these speculations are true or not. If they prove to be true than a person who suffers a traumatic event may start losing sleep. The research team further stipulates that the lack of sleep will not only develop but perpetuate post traumatic stress disorder. This is a radical theory, to say the least. 

The researchers say that sleeping disorders are triggered by a very deep traumatic psychological trauma and the subjective version is much more serious than the actual event itself. And that the daytime symptoms can affect the actual sleeping disorder itself but the sleeping order can affect the daytime symptoms as well. It is a vicious health cycle.  

Again, the study says that the presence of sleeping disorders present during the trauma or that develop shortly after the trauma will enhance negative psychological outcomes including post traumatic stress disorder. 

Traditionally, it was thought that post traumatic sleeping disorder would generate poor sleeping habits such as insomnia and other sleeping disorders. But a couple of researchers have proved that sleeping disorders are actually the cause of the post traumatic stress disorder. Based on this conclusion; there is strong evidence that there is a very real correlation between loss of sleep and post traumatic stress disorder. 

It must also be understood that posttraumatic stress disorder is not a stress disorder that develops right after the traumatic event takes place and may last for a fixed amount of time. But it may develop up to one year after a traumatic event had taken place. This may support the theory that post traumatic stress disorder is a catalyst for the loss of sleep in people who have the disorder. The researchers came to this conclusion after studying 19 studies involving adults. 

The same researchers also cited that among 88,235 Army soldiers tested right after they returned from deployment for post traumatic stress disorder. The same group was then tested 6 months after the first evaluation and the results are very telling. The  number of regular army soldiers had an increase of post traumatic stress disorder symptoms from 11.8% to 16.5% in Army active duty members and the increase in the numbers were even more pronounced in National Guard and Reserve members with the total increasing from 12.7% to 24.5% or double. 

The 6 month reevaluation after a traumatic event also showed some interesting numbers. The worsening of post stress traumatic stress symptoms and re emergence of post traumatic stress distress was found to be 15.3% in civilians and 38.2% in military personnel. So, the inference here is that the sleeping disorders may have enhanced the existing post traumatic disorder present in these individuals. And that those that reported the new formation of  post traumatic stress disorder could have been triggered by sleeping disorders. 

It seems that soldiers are more susceptible to post traumatic stress disorder than the civilian population. But this really does make sense because when they are in a warm environment the chances of experiencing a traumatic event increases greatly. Even if an actual traumatic event does not actually occur the threat of one occurring during war is ever present. It is possible that the constant threat of having a traumatic event could trigger post traumatic stress disorder. 

Soldiers in a foreign culture fighting can see and hear things that will indelibly traumatize them perhaps for life. They may see a loved one or a good friend killed right before their eyes or maybe they may see a good friend lose a limb through enemy gunfire or by stepping on a mine or some other explosive device. 

What could be even worse for a soldier is to have a traumatic event happen to that soldier personally? They may step on a mine or have a grenade or some other explosive device hurled at them and blow up right under them or near them. This could severe a limb or damage a limb permanently this is personally traumatic as it gets. 

Another aspect that plagues a military member is the fact that he may sooner or later have to take a human life and the first time he kills another human being this can be a very severe form of a traumatic event.  The image of killing that person may play over and over again in the soldier’s mind causing post traumatic stress disorder and then sleeping disorders will set in and may aggravate the disorder. Or sleeping disorders may occur then the post traumatic stress disorder will develop. 

Further Studies on Military Veterans


This study says that post traumatic stress disorder has mentioned in its diagnosis sleeping weaknesses mentioned twice as apart of the disorder. In fact, in one publication it is mentioned twice before the disorder is ever really talked about. It may be that the post traumatic stress disorder may appear before the sleeping disorders develop or the sleeping disorders may appear and then the disorder could develop. In either case, the sleeping disorders will not make the disorder better it may very well make it worse. 

The study says–like the above study– that sleeping disorders may not be just symptoms of the disorder but they may be independent factors that will develop the disorder and aggravate it. Or if the disorder is already present then these sleeping disorders can worsen the disorder. The combination of post traumatic stress disorder sleeping disorders will never be a good acting mechanism in the human body.  

For example, Vietnam Veterans who had post traumatic stress disorder insomnia is a reported symptom in 90-100%  of these veterans and veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan war. In general in the Millennium Cohort Study it was reported that 92% of veterans with post traumatic stress disorder had insomnia and 28% of veterans without post traumatic stress disorder had insomnia. Again, there is such a strong tie between sleep deprivation and posttraumatic stress disorder. 

So, it just cannot be denied that there is a tie between sleeping disorders and post traumatic stress disorders. In the Vietnam control group, all but a few men did not have insomnia and the percentages in the Millenium Cohort study were very high among veterans who had post traumatic stress disorder and had insomnia as well. 

Case Studies of Post Traumatic Sleep Disorder and Sleeping disorders

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Many people who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder suffer from very serious sleep deprivation, insomnia, shallow levels of sleep which can lead to depression, anxiety disorders and the saddest condition suicide. It can also cause perceived levels of stress in these individuals and the sleeping disorders on top of these health issues will multiply the severity of these health issues. Stress can lead to some serious breakdowns in the organs of the body and the body as a whole. It could lead to death. Post traumatic stress disorder can be treated and has been treated successfully in patients. But sometimes cases are so bad that these treatments will not help these patients. These patients may suffer from the disorder and the sleeping issues long after the trauma even with the best of treatments applied to these patients. 

Some of the treatments include both pharmacological and nonpharmacological treatments. The purpose of these treatments are to reverse the depression, sleeping disorders, anxiety, and depression caused by the sleeping disorders and post traumatic stress disorders. Ideally, the actual trauma will be removed from the patient’s memory. If this can be accomplished then the perceived trauma, stress, anxiety will disappear because there is no trauma to perceive as trauma anymore.

It must be made clear to the patient that the trauma–if this the case–is not their fault and they are not responsible for the event to have occurred. Once they realize they are not responsible for the trauma or that there is nothing to be traumatized by anymore then they are well on the way to recovery.

Of the above mentioned therapies, the most successful ones have been Image Rehearsal Therapy (IRT) and the alpha-1-adrenergic receptor antagonist, prazosin. These particular treatments have been proven to work time and time again. The study further reveals that 6.8% of the American population suffers from this chronic and debilitating condition. The disorder has 4 groups of symptoms and one of them is sleeping disorders. They can also be said to be intrusive or hyperarousal like insomnia. It depends on the source of the sleeping disorders and sadly 70% of soldiers report these types of symptoms related to post stress traumatic disorder. 

It is possible that the military population will have a much greater propensity to suffer from post traumatic stress disorder-related sleeping disorders than the civilian population. The military in wartime settings are always facing death every day they are involved in the war. This would cause a lot of stress 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  

Treatments for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-Related Sleeping Disorders    

Treatments for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-Related Sleeping Disorders

Non-Pharmacological Treatments   

Starting off with non-pharmacological treatments are treatments that do not use medications. The first one on the list and seems to have some success in helping patients with sleeping disorder is a subtype of Cognitive Behavioral Treatment. It is known as Image Rehearsal Therapy which is used to cure patient’s nightmares. The patient writes the nightmare down then replaces it with some positive message.  

The point of the therapy is to have the patient displace the nightmare with a positive experience and do dwell on the positive experience instead of the negative nightmare. The patient would eventually forget about the nightmare and return to a normal sleeping pattern and eventually eliminate post  traumatic stress disorder. The patient would rehearse the positive experience when the nightmare would occur. It has met with some success when patients have used this treatment. 

Previous research has reflected moderate improvements in REM sleep and REM density as well as reduce REM sleep latency–Another crucial reported parameter is rapid eye movement latency also known as REM latency. Rapid eye movement latency is the time from sleep onset to the first epoch of REM sleep; therefore, it depends on the patient’s sleep latency. The REM sleep cycles every 90 to 120 min intervals throughout the night.–and it was reported among patients that nightmares did decrease and a decrease in sleep complaints.

Krakow conducts some randomized trials using Image Rehearsal Therapy and the nightmares were reduced. Patients were supposed to complete a 3 month and 6 month follow-up. The trials were to see if the nightmares would be reduced and the quality of sleep would improve. It was found that at the 3 and 6 month follow-ups the patients did experience fewer nightmares and a reduction in poor sleeping patterns. In fact, the patients had a significant reduction in nightmares.

The trials involve 3 control groups and it was found that the patients had a major reduction in nightmares occurring and the quality of their sleep greatly improved. Specifically, the nightmares per week were reduced, sleep improved and post traumatic stress disorder symptoms decreased. The downside to the trials was that 114 of the 168 participants completed the 3 months and 6 month follow-ups which may indicate the therapy was too difficult to complete. The therapy is highly successful but it may be very complicated and hard to complete.  

If a patient is suffering with complex sleeping disorders and a severe case of post traumatic stress disorder they will complete the therapy if they want to be cured bad enough. The work will be worth to their mental and physical health. 

In another study, they used Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBTI). This therapy uses a combination of cognitive and behavioral treatments to help people reduce insomnia and to be able to sleep through the night. This would hopefully reduce and eliminate all post traumatic stress disorder symptoms. The treatment included cognitive and behavioral techniques including stimulus control therapy, sleep restriction therapy, relaxation training, cognitive restructuring, and sleep hygiene instructions. Unfortunately, the treatment is promising but surprisingly, there have been no studies conducted using these particular therapies. 

What this means is that it is not known if these combination of treatments will help to eliminate insomnia and eventually post traumatic stress disorder. So, the treatment is pretty useless at this point in time. 

Self-exposure therapy is the next therapy that may have promise in helping patients overcome sleeping disorders related to post stress traumatic sleeping disorder. In this treatment, patients will list their anxiety-producing thoughts in order of importance. The patient will rehearse the least anxiety provoking thought or dream until the trauma subsides from that thought or dream. The patient will work up the list until the most complex thought or dream is dealt with. By the end of the therapy the goal is for the patient to be free of post traumatic stress disorder  and insomnia. 

Another treatment is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). The treatment is a first line of defense championed by the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies for PTSD. The treatment involves many various treatments but the only problem is the treatment has never been used in studies to  see if the treatment will eliminate these sleeping disorders. 

Pharmacological Treatments

Pharmacological Treatments

These medicated-driven therapies are important in treating sleeping disorders as well even though they are not considered front line therapies. Nevertheless, they are still viable treatments that have helped people overcome post traumatic stress disorder and the sleeping disorders that accompany that disorder. 

The first medication to be discussed is prazosin and it has been fairly successful when used. It is used for post traumatic stress disorder related insomnia. But as always the danger of taking medication is that it can become addicting. If a patient has a tendency to abuse medications this may not be the treatment for them. 

Prazosin is an alpha-1-adrenergic receptor antagonist that crosses over the blood brain barrier (BBB) and for this reason is effective for treating nightmares. The blocking properties of the drug can help to control REM sleep. It may even be able to normalize REM disruption. If it can normalize this it can help to eliminate nightmares. 

The medication was used in a placebo-controlled experiment where patients were administered in 3mg doses but it has been shown that doses ranging from 1mg-10mg can be effective. Higher doses of the medication were justified in using military personnel. Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan  war and the males were given 10mg midmorning and 20mg at bedtime. Women were given 2mg midmorning and 10mg at bedtime. 

It seemed like the trials went from 3 to 9 weeks and the prazosin seemed to work effectively in helping the veterans to sleep better and have fewer post traumatic stress disorder symptoms. This medication was more effective than a placebo. 

Another group of drugs known as alpha adrenergic agonists specifically guanfacine and clonidine has been used to treat sleeping disorders. Clonidine may be effective in controlling nightmares by blocking the outflow of sympathetic nervous signals to the brain. This can stop nightmares from manifesting while patients sleep. 

Two studies found that when people experiencing nightmares took from 0.2 mg to 0.6 mg of clonidine and it seemed to reduce the nightmares these patients were experiencing. This drug holds promise in helping people to have normal sleeping patterns without nightmares. 

The Boston Marathon Tragedy

People who experienced the Boston Marathon Bombings may have had trouble sleeping after the traumatic event. Especially those runners who were injured from the bombs or those [people who lost loved ones from the bombings. They may have had a hard road to recovery and sleeping normally again. 

As we defined earlier these people may suffer from Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) and be in a daze for a time. This disorder may last for several days to a month. If it lasts for more than a month then it becomes known as post traumatic stress disorder. If it progresses to this stage than the sleeping disorders will last longer. 

The traumatic response may not appear for days perhaps weeks after the traumatic event has been experienced this applies to those who experienced the Boston Marathon bombings. One expert says “Sleep problems are expected stress reactions in the first few weeks following traumatic events like the bombings in Boston,” said Dr. Anne Germain, who studies sleep disturbances in PTSD as associate professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. “Other stress reactions are also expected – they are all normal reactions to unexpected events. Most people will bounce back without any kind of treatment or intervention. Intrusive thoughts and images at bedtime or in the middle of the night (including bad dreams and nightmares) again are expected NORMAL reactions to these events.” But if these people do not recover from these sleeping disorders and from post traumatic stress disorders than they will need some type of outside treatment. 

But as the above comment suggests there are those fortunate ones who were running in the Boston Marathon and experienced the bombings. They could have had abnormal sleeping patterns for several days after the traumatic event and recovered from the trauma without any outside intervention. They wouldn’t need to take any medication or participate in any treatments. Their recoveries were very quick. 

Then there could have been those that were not so fast to recover from the traumatic event in a few days. They would have experienced post traumatic stress disorders and sleeping disorders related to that disorder. Their issues will have gone on much longer than the group mentioned above. These people more than likely will need outside treatments to recover from their health issues.  

various sleeping disorders

Conclusion: This article hax shared information to show the close relationship between post traumatic stress disorder and various sleeping disorders. There is a definite correlation between these two disorders. Sometimes sleeping sickness can be symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder but these sleeping disorders can also aggravate post traumatic stress disorder and make it worse. It has been hypothesized that sleeping disorders may even develop post traumatic stress disorders and there are a number of options to help cure these disorders. This article recorded a series of tragic events involving law enforcement and an ex-soldier suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.