Study links PTSD to higher sleep apnea risk in veterans

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine indicates that veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are at an increased risk of developing sleep apnea.

Some PTSD symptoms include nightmares, heightened emotional reactions and negative changes in mood. Researchers examined 159 Afghanistan and Iraq veterans with PTSD symptoms and found that 69 percent of them had a higher chance of getting the sleep disorder. For every significant increase in PTSD symptom severity, the risk of developing sleep apnea rises 40 percent.

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing frequently stops and starts. A common symptom is excessive daytime sleepiness, though not all patients suffer it. Certain aspects of PTSD, such as sleep deprivation and the psychological stress from combat, may increase the chances of developing sleep apnea.

Many veterans tend to experience PTSD and other mental health conditions upon returning to civilian life.

“The implication is that veterans who come to PTSD treatment, even younger veterans, should be screened for obstructive sleep apnea so that they have the opportunity to be diagnosed and treated,” Dr. Sonya Norman, PTSD Consultation Program director at the National Center for PTSD, said in a statement.

Sleep apnea could potentially lead to other health problems such as diabetes, hypertension, depression and worsening PTSD.

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