Prior sleep problems and adverse post-traumatic neuropsychiatric sequelae of motor vehicle collision in the AURORA study

Sleep. 2021 Mar 12;44(3):zsaa200. doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsaa200.


Study objectives: Many patients in Emergency Departments (EDs) after motor vehicle collisions (MVCs) develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or major depressive episode (MDE). This report from the AURORA study focuses on associations of pre-MVC sleep problems with these outcomes 8 weeks after MVC mediated through peritraumatic distress and dissociation and 2-week outcomes.

Methods: A total of 666 AURORA patients completed self-report assessments in the ED and at 2 and 8 weeks after MVC. Peritraumatic distress, peritraumatic dissociation, and pre-MVC sleep characteristics (insomnia, nightmares, daytime sleepiness, and sleep duration in the 30 days before the MVC, trait sleep stress reactivity) were assessed retrospectively in the ED. The survey assessed acute stress disorder (ASD) and MDE at 2 weeks and at 8 weeks assessed PTSD and MDE (past 30 days). Control variables included demographics, MVC characteristics, and retrospective reports about PTSD and MDE in the 30 days before the MVC.

Results: Prevalence estimates were 41.0% for 2-week ASD, 42.0% for 8-week PTSD, 30.5% for 2-week MDE, and 27.2% for 8-week MDE. Pre-MVC nightmares and sleep stress reactivity predicted 8-week PTSD (mediated through 2-week ASD) and MDE (mediated through the transition between 2-week and 8-week MDE). Pre-MVC insomnia predicted 8-week PTSD (mediated through 2-week ASD). Estimates of population attributable risk suggest that blocking effects of sleep disturbance might reduce prevalence of 8-week PTSD and MDE by as much as one-third.

Conclusions: Targeting disturbed sleep in the immediate aftermath of MVC might be one effective way of reducing MVC-related PTSD and MDE.

Keywords: insomnia; major depressive episode; motor vehicle collision; nightmares; post-traumatic stress disorder; prospective design; sleep stress reactivity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic
  • Depressive Disorder, Major*
  • Humans
  • Motor Vehicles
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sleep Wake Disorders*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / etiology