Improving Sleep Can Aid Recovery of Veterans with PTSD and TBI

COM sad soldier US Marine CorpsSleep disturbance is a primary symptom of both Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and has been found to affect the severity of both conditions. A review article in Clinical Psychology Review by researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and the VA Boston Healthcare System, found that TBI patients can suffer permanent sleep problems regardless of the severity of their initial injury. Furthermore, approximately 40-65 percent of these individuals experience insomnia after a mild TBI and patients with sleep difficulties are at a higher risk of developing PTSD.

Despite information pointing to sleep quality as an important focus in patients with PTSD and TBI, sleep quality has been understudied in the veteran population. The review discusses that poor sleep often persists among veterans even after resolution of their PTSD and mild TBI symptoms; however, few treatments and therapies target this decline in sleep quality.

“PTSD, TBI and sleep problems significantly affect functional status and quality of life in veterans returning from combat,” explains lead author Yelena Bogdanova, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at BUSM. According to researchers, sleep is critical for restorative function and further evaluation of sleep disturbances should be integral to the clinical management of PTSD and TBI. Bogdanova added, “Understanding sleep problems and their role in the development and maintenance of PTSD and TBI symptoms may lead to improvement in overall treatment outcomes. Future research efforts should target the development of sleep-focused interventions.”

Submitted by Nilima Shet, MD.