A retrospective study on improvements in nightmares and post-traumatic stress disorder following treatment for co-morbid sleep-disordered breathing

J Psychosom Res. 2000 Nov;49(5):291-8. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3999(00)00147-1.


Objective: To assess the impact of treatment for co-morbid sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) on patients with nightmares and post-traumatic stress.

Methods: Twenty-three chronic nightmare sufferers (15 with post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD) who also suffered co-morbid SDB (obstructive sleep apnea, OSA, n=16; upper airway resistance syndrome, UARS, n=7) completed a telephone interview, on average, 21 months after having been offered treatment for SDB at a university sleep disorders clinic.

Results: At follow-up, 14 reported maintaining treatment (Treatment Group) and 9 reported discontinuing treatment (No-Treatment Group). More patients in the Treatment Group reported improvement in sleep (93% vs. 33%) and in daytime well being (93% vs. 33%) compared with those in the No-Treatment group. The Treatment Group reported a median improvement in nightmares of 85% compared with a median 10% worsening in the No-Treatment Group. In the PTSD subset (n=15), nine in the Treatment Group reported a median 75% improvement in PTSD symptoms whereas six in the No-Treatment Group reported a median 43% worsening.

Conclusion: In this small sample of patients, treatment of SDB was associated with improvements in nightmares and PTSD. Relationships between nightmares, PTSD and SDB are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Chronic Disease
  • Comorbidity
  • Dreams / psychology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Periodicity
  • Polysomnography
  • Positive-Pressure Respiration / methods*
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / epidemiology
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / therapy*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires