Many studies have provided strong evidence of a fundamental and complex role for sleep disturbances in adult posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Investigations of adult PTSD using subjective and objective measures document sleep architecture abnormalities and high prevalence of sleep disordered breathing, periodic limb movement disorder, nightmares, and insomnia. PTSD treatment methods do appear to significantly improve sleep disturbance, and also studies suggest that treatments for sleep disorders often result in improvements in PTSD symptoms. Further, the most recent evidence suggests sleep abnormalities may precede the development of PTSD. Given the importance of sleep disorders to the onset, course, and treatment of adult PTSD, examination of sleep disturbances far earlier in the life course is imperative. Here we review the literature on what we know about sleep disturbances and disorders in pediatric PTSD. Our review indicates that the extant, empirical data examining sleep disturbance and disorders in pediatric PTSD is limited. Yet, this literature suggests there are significantly higher reports of sleep disturbances and nightmares in children and adolescents exposed to trauma and/or diagnosed with PTSD than in non-trauma-exposed samples. Sleep questionnaires are predominantly employed to assess sleep disorders in pediatric PTSD, with few studies utilizing objective measures. Given the important, complex relationship being uncovered between adult PTSD and sleep, this review calls for further research of sleep in children with PTSD using more specific subjective measures and also objective measures, such as polysomnography and eventually treatment trial studies.
Keywords: PTSD; Pediatric; objective measures; sleep disturbance; subjective measures.