Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is often described as an invisible wound that many soldiers suffer as a result of combat. PTSD affects about one in six combat veterans, and can severely hamper their ability to return to a normal life, including their ability to work and to maintain intimate or family relationships. Nightmares are one of the most commonly reported symptoms of PTSD, and now it seems that sleep apnea treatment can help combat them.
The Relationship Between Sleep Apnea Treatment and Nightmares
The study looked at the medical records of Veterans Administration (VA) patients who were diagnosed with both obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and PTSD. Researchers looked at the mean number of nightmares per week reported before diagnosis and up to six months after OSA treatment began. In all cases studied here, CPAP was the OSA treatment used.
The study found a twofold effect. First, it noted that nightmares decreased with OSA treatment. They also noted that CPAP compliance tended to increase once nightmares went down. Although compliance is often seen as a barrier to successful implementation of CPAP therapy, researchers postulated that patients were more eager to keep up their CPAP once they started experiencing fewer nightmares and higher-quality sleep.
Sleep Apnea Is Common Among Veterans
Sleep apnea is also common among veterans. Not only is it associated with PTSD, it’s also common among brain injury victims, possibly moderated by obesity, although with sleep apnea and obesity it’s hard to tell which is the cause and which is the effect.
If you are a veteran or know a veteran who is suffering signs of PTSD or other symptoms that may be linked to sleep apnea, such as daytime sleepiness, moodiness, loss of ability to concentrate, or morning headaches, you should recommend that he or she visit a sleep clinic to get evaluated for sleep apnea, and then talk about sleep apnea treatment options.
Although CPAP was the only treatment used in the above study, it is not the only option, and it’s not always the best option.