Half of Survivors of Traumatic Events Experiencing Nightmares and Insomnia: Presented at SLEEP

By Alex Morrisson

BALTIMORE, Maryland -- June 6, 2013 -- Sleep disturbances (nightmares or insomnia, or both) appear to be common sequelae after experiencing a traumatic event for nearly half of respondents to a national survey, researchers reported at the 27th Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (SLEEP 2013).

Melissa Milanak, PhD, National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina, and colleagues scrutinised the National Stressful Events Survey, and identified 2,766 adults who reported at least 1 trauma-related event in their lifetime.

Stressful events were defined as exposure to natural disasters; involvement in an accident or fire; experiencing combat or work in a war zone; experiencing physical or sexual assault; witnessing physical or sexual assault; observing a threat or injury to a family member; witnessing a death due to violence; and witnessing a sudden, unexpected death.

A total of 43.7% of respondents to this survey complained of sleep disturbances, Dr. Milanak noted at a poster presentation here on June 3. In all, 13.2% of individuals who experience trauma-related events experienced trauma-related nightmares; 16.8% of these individuals reported trauma-related insomnia; and 13.7% of the individuals with a trauma-related personal history reported both trauma-related nightmares and trauma-related insomnia.

About 56% of respondents, however, did not report any sleep disturbances related to their traumatic event.

·Trauma-related insomnia and nightmares are highly prevalent among those reporting a history of stressful event exposure, and prevalence increases among patients who meet the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder,· Dr. Milanak reported.

Of those who had a post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis, 92% reported experiencing sleep disturbances; most of these individuals experienced insomnia.

The National Stressful Events Survey is conducted as a structured online interview, from a probability-based online panel of adults from the United States. The survey is aimed to assess exposure to stressful events, as well as symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder -- including insomnia defined as restless sleep or trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep, and trauma-related nightmares.

Just over half (52.1%) of the participants in the study were females; 52.9% were older than 45 years of age; and nearly all (94.7%) had achieved at least a high-school degree. About 75% of the participants were white; 12.5% were black; 4.4% were Asian; and 8.4% identified as other ethnicities.

[Presentation title: Prevalence of Trauma-Related Sleep Disturbances Among U.S. Adults. Abstract 1619010]

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