Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sleep, and cardiovascular disease risk: A mechanism-focused narrative review

Health Psychol. 2022 Oct;41(10):663-673. doi: 10.1037/hea0001143. Epub 2022 Jan 10.


Objective: Growing longitudinal research has demonstrated that posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) precedes and predicts the onset of cardiovascular disease (CVD), and a number of physiological (e.g., dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and autonomic nervous system, chronic systemic inflammation) and behavioral (e.g., physical inactivity, smoking, poor diet) factors might underlie this association. In this narrative review, we focus on sleep as a modifiable risk factor linking PTSD with CVD.

Method: We summarize the evidence for sleep disturbance after trauma exposure and the potential cardiotoxic effects of poor sleep, with an emphasis on mechanisms. In addition, we review the literature that has examined sleep in the context of the PTSD-CVD risk relation.

Results: Although sleep disturbance is a hallmark symptom of PTSD and a well-established risk factor for the development of CVD, the role of sleep in the association between PTSD and CVD has been largely unexamined in the extant literature. However, such work has the potential to improve our understanding of mechanisms of risk and inform intervention efforts to offset elevated CVD risk after trauma.

Conclusions: We outline several recommendations for future research and behavioral medicine models in order to help define and address the role of sleep behavior in the development of CVD among trauma-exposed individuals with PTSD. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / etiology
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System
  • Sleep
  • Sleep Wake Disorders* / complications
  • Sleep Wake Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders* / psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / psychology