Poor Sleep Linked To Post-Heart Attack PTSD
May 30, 2013

Researchers Link Poor Sleep To Post-Heart Attack PTSD

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

A new study from researchers at Yale and Columbia suggests that a lack of sleep after suffering a heart attack could be due to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The study, which was published in Annals of Behavioral Medicine, builds on previous evidence suggesting that heart attack survivors with PTSD have twice the risk of having another cardiac episode or of dying within one to three years, compared to those patients without PTSD.

In the study, the joint research team recruited almost“¯200 patients who had experienced a heart attack within the previous month from New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center. Participants were assessed for PTSD using the Impact of Events Scale-Revised, a 22-item survey that determines subjective distress caused by traumatic events. Using scientific modeling, the research team determined whether PTSD symptoms were associated with sleep levels and independent of confounding factors.

An analysis of the results showed that the greater amount of heart attack-induced PTSD indicators patients reported, the poorer their self-reported sleep was in the month following their cardiac event. More PTSD symptoms following a heart attack were linked with worse sleep quality, shorter sleep periods, more sleep instability, use of sleep assistance medications, and daytime tiredness due to poor sleep the previous night.

The researchers also found that people with poor sleep after a heart attack were more likely to be female, have higher body mass index (BMI), and exhibit more signs of depression. They were also less likely to be Latino.

According to the report, the authors said the strong link between heart attack-induced PTSD and poor sleep may be because sleep disruption is a normal characteristic of PTSD. Other treatment studies on PTSD and sleep disturbance indicate that the two conditions should be viewed as concurrent and not one being a symptom of the other. In addition, disruption of the autonomic nervous system, which is connected with both PTSD and poor sleep, could be the mechanism behind their association.

The team concluded that further research should focus on the associations among PTSD due to heart attack, poor sleep, and the risk for future heart attacks.

Typical PTSD symptoms include anxiety, avoidance behaviors and unsettling flashback memories. Another recent study in the“¯Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that two hours of stretching and meditation every week can be an effective way to fight the condition.

The study included 22 nurses experiencing PTSD symptoms. Half of the nurses participated in an hour-long mind-body class twice a week. During each session, the women were asked to meditate, stretch, and perform both balancing and deep-breathing exercises.

After eight weeks, the nurses who participated in the classes experienced a 41 percent decrease in PTSD symptoms and a 67 percent increase in blood levels of cortisol, a hormone released by the body to combat stress.

“What we found is simple, but profound — only eight weeks of meditation relieved PTSD symptoms and normalized stress hormone levels,” said study author Sang H. Kim, of the National Institutes of Health.