Background: Prazosin, a central nervous system (CNS) active alpha-1 adrenoreceptor antagonist, has reduced nightmares and sleep disturbance in placebo-controlled studies of combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We evaluated objective sleep parameters and PTSD symptoms in a placebo-controlled prazosin trial for civilian trauma-related PTSD.
Methods: Thirteen outpatients with chronic civilian trauma PTSD, frequent nightmares, and sleep disturbance participated in a randomized placebo-controlled crossover trial of prazosin. Sleep parameters were quantified at home with the REMView (Respironics, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania). The PTSD symptoms were quantified with the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) "recurrent distressing dreams" and "disturbed sleep" items, a non-nightmare distressed awakenings scale, the PTSD Dream Rating Scale (PDRS), the PTSD Checklist-Civilian (PCL-C), and the Clinical Global Impression of Improvement (CGI-I).
Results: Prazosin compared with placebo significantly increased total sleep time by 94 min; increased rapid eye movement (REM) sleep time and mean REM period duration without altering sleep onset latency; significantly reduced trauma-related nightmares, distressed awakenings, and total PCL scores; significantly improved CGI-I scores; and changed PDRS scores toward normal dreaming.
Conclusions: Prazosin reductions of nighttime PTSD symptoms in civilian trauma PTSD are accompanied by increased total sleep time, REM sleep time, and mean REM period duration in the absence of a sedative-like effect on sleep onset latency.