People who experience post-traumatic stress disorder following a heart attack
may find it hard to get a good night's sleep, a new study indicates.
The researchers from Columbia University Medical Center noted that poor sleep
is typical among post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) patients, which may help
explain the association between heart attack-induced PTSD and worse sleep
The study's first author, Jonathan Shaffer, and colleagues at Columbia's
Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health examined the link between PTSD and
sleep in almost 200 patients who suffered a heart attack. They found that the
more PTSD symptoms people experienced following a heart attack, the worse their
self-reported sleep was in the month after their heart attack.
PTSD symptoms include anxiety, avoidance behaviours and flashbacks to bad
PTSD and sleep
Worse PTSD symptoms were also tied to poorer sleep quality, shorter sleeping
time, interrupted sleep, use of sleeping pills and daytime sleepiness, the
Gender also seemed to play a role. The research, published in the current
issue of Annals of Behavioral Medicine, revealed that women were more
likely to be affected by poor sleep following a heart attack.
People with poor sleep after a heart attack were also likely to have more
symptoms of depression and a higher body-mass index (a measurement that takes
into account height and weight), according to the report. These patients were
also less likely to be Hispanic, the findings showed.
The study authors noted that functional problems with the "autonomic nervous
system" - the part of the nervous system that regulates involuntary bodily
functions, such as breathing - is associated with both PTSD and disrupted sleep.
The researchers suggested that nervous system dysfunction could be a common
cause behind both problems.
More studies are needed to investigate the link between heart attack-induced
PTSD and poor sleep, as well as the risk for future heart attacks, the team
suggested in the news release. While the study findings revealed an association,
they did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
The US National Institute of Mental Health has more about PTSD.