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By: Kate Jacobson on June 24th, 2021

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Trauma Associated Sleep Disorder: How PTSD Patients Might Be Suffering From This New, Proposed Parasomnia

Sleep Disorders | Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Sleep | Parasomnias

While working at the Madigan Army Medical Center in Washington state, Vincent Mysliwiec, MD, FAASM, and his colleagues started to notice a unique phenomenon. Soldiers coming into the sleep lab were experiencing disruptive nocturnal behaviors and nightmares following traumatic experiences associated with their deployment. These symptoms which occurred frequently at home, would at times occur in the sleep lab where the patients would have REM without atonia (RWA) during polysomnography. It was odd — unlike other instances of PTSD-induced nightmares he had seen — and it made Mysliwiec think there was something more there. “It was definitely something distinct,” Mysliwiec said. “Everyone always goes, ‘That’s just PTSD.’ Yes, those with PTSD very frequently have nightmares, but nowhere in the PTSD criteria do they have disruptive nocturnal behaviors or dream reenactment.” Mysliwiec and his colleagues called the phenomenon “Trauma Associated Sleep Disorder” and classified it as a potential parasomnia. Their first paper on it was published in October 2014 in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Since then, there are a growing number of clinicians and researchers finding evidence in their own labs that young soldiers, as well as veterans, might be experiencing something more intense than symptoms commonly associated with PTSD. Moreover, they believe further study of this proposed parasomnia could be a major preventative measure for long-term PTSD complications. “If you can actually say to a solider, veteran — or anyone suffering from traumatic exposure — that we have an established diagnostic criteria for the severe sleep disturbances you are experiencing, then you can begin to evaluate treatments for this disorder and prevent long[1]term adverse outcomes. We could potentially treat them for this potential parasomnia and improve their sleep and that of their bed partner.” he said. “It’s an important question — and we need researchers to develop the criteria.”

To learn more about parasomnia overlap disorder research and current understandings, read the full article in the 2021 Q1 issue of A2Zzz.

Read the 2021 Q1 A2Zzz Issue