Sleep Problems, PTSD, Obesity 'Related, but to What Degree?'

Article excerpt

MONTREAL -- Sleep problems are common among individuals exposed to terrorist attacks, and new evidence suggests that sleep deficits are contributing to obesity in this traumatized population, researchers reported at the meeting.

Disturbed sleep and traumatic nightmares are hallmarks of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), said Brian Hall, a doctoral candidate at Kent (Ohio) State University and a clinical psychology intern at the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston. "Sleep is a treatment-refractory target in PTSD. In folks who respond well to treatments for PTSD, sleep problems tend to be a residual issue."

In a study of 501 Israeli Jews living along the Gaza strip, Mr. Hall and his colleagues found that 47% had had at least one direct terrorist exposure involving the death of a relative, personal injury, injury of a relative or close friend, or witnessing a rocket or terrorist attack with injuries or fatalities.

PTSD was present in 5.5% of this highly exposed cohort, and depression in an additional 3.8%. Clinical sleep disturbance, assessed using the 18-item Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), was present in 37.4% of the cohort, but reached 82% among those identified with PTSD, and 79% among those who were depressed. Overweight, assessed by body mass index, was present in 45% of the entire cohort, with 11% of the overweight group meeting criteria for obesity, he said at the meeting, cosponsored by Boston University.

Statistical analysis showed that although there was no direct effect of PTSD on BMI, sleep mediated this effect. …