New research suggests that treating apnea in veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder can also alleviate chronic nightmares.
The research, conducted by researchers with the Sleep Disorders Laboratory at G.V. (Sonny) VA Medical Center in Jackson, Miss., found veterans who used continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy — in which a mask is worn during sleep to prevent apnea — experienced a significant drop in the number of nightmares they experienced.
"Patients with PTSD get more motivated to use CPAP once they get restful sleep without frequent nightmares, and their compliance improves," said lead researcher Sadeka Tamanna, M.D.
The findings, published in an online supplement of the journal Sleep and presented at a recent meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC, are based on a review of medical records of veterans with PTSD who were treated in a VA medical center sleep clinic between 2011 and 2012.
"One out of six veterans suffers from PTSD, which affects their personal, social and productive life," said Tamanna. "Nightmares are one of the major symptoms that affect their daily life, and prevalence of OSA is also high among PTSD patients and can trigger their nightmares."
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, obstructive sleep apnea is a common sleep illness affecting up to 7 percent of men and 5 percent of women. It involves episodes of complete or partial upper airway obstruction occurring during sleep, which can increase the risk of numbers mental and physical health problems.
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