Study finds link between PTSD and sleep apnea

By Liao Hsueh-ju and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Sat, Jul 20, 2019 - Page 4

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is linked to sleep apnea, which leads to increased risk of cardiovascular disorders, researchers said on Monday.

Using information from the National Health Insurance database, researchers determined that people with PTSD are four times more likely to develop sleep apnea, China Medical University Hsinchu Hospital psychiatrist Chou Po-han (周伯翰) said.

Researchers from the Hsinchu hospital, Tzu Chi Hospital and Veterans’ General Hospital contributed to the study, which reviewed the medical history of 23,796 people at least 13 years old, including 2,136 people with PTSD and 21,360 in a control group, Chou said.

Due to PTSD’s symptoms of interrupted sleep, hypervigilance and nightmares, it has a chronic negative effect on sleep quality, he said, adding that those conditions are also risk factors of sleep apnea.

Prior research has linked PTSD to several metabolic disorders that are correlated with sleep apnea, including obesity, he said.

People with sleep apnea often snore loudly and could experience chronic fatigue, irritability, drowsiness, headaches, and impaired memory and focus, and have a higher probability of developing cardiovascular disorders, he said.

PTSD is the second-most common psychological disorder after depression and about 8 percent of all people experience PTSD at some point in their lives, he said.

People with PTSD are more likely to develop depression, anxiety or issues with substance abuse, which makes it more difficult to treat and increases suicide risk, he said.

In Taiwan, PTSD research only focuses on cases resulting from high-profile disasters, which overlooks more common causes such as domestic or workplace abuse, a traffic accident or receiving a life-threatening diagnosis, Chou said.

The common belief that time will cure all and telling those with PTSD to just “let go” are unhelpful, he said, adding that people who feel overwhelming distress should seek professional help.