Pre-existing insomnia linked to PTSD and other mental disorders after military deployment

June 28, 2013

A new study from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the Naval Health Research Center has shown military service members who have trouble sleeping prior to deployments may be at greater risk of developing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety once they return home. The new study, published in the July 2013 edition of the journal SLEEP, found that pre-existing insomnia symptoms conferred almost as a large of a risk for those mental disorders as combat exposure.

"Understanding environmental and associated with the onset of common major mental disorders is of great importance in a military occupational setting," said lead study author Philip Gehrman, PhD, assistant professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry, member of the Penn Sleep Center, and the Philadelphia VA Medical Center. "This study is the first prospective investigation of the relationship between sleep disturbance and development of newly identified positive screens for mental disorders in a large military cohort who have been deployed in support of the recent operations in Iraq or Afghanistan."

Using self-reported data from the Millennium Cohort Study, the research team evaluated the association of pre-deployment sleep duration and on the development of new-onset mental disorders among deployers. Multivariable logistic regression was used to estimate the odds of developing PTSD, depression, and , while adjusting for relevant covariates including combat-related trauma.

They analyzed data from 15,204 service members, including only those servicemen and women on the timing of their first deployment across all branches and components of military service. They identified 522 people with new-onset PTSD, 151 with anxiety, and 303 with depression following deployment. In adjusted models, combat-related trauma and pre-deployment insomnia symptoms were significantly associated with higher odds of developing posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety.

"One of the more interesting findings of this study is not only the degree of risk conferred by pre-deployment insomnia symptoms, but also the relative magnitude of this risk compared with combat-related trauma," says Gehrman. "The risk conferred by insomnia symptoms was almost as strong as our measure of combat exposure in adjusted models."

The researchers also found that short sleep duration (less than six hours of sleep per night), separate from general insomnia, was associated with new-onset PTSD symptoms.

"We found that insomnia is both a symptom and a risk factor for mental illness and may present a modifiable target for intervention among military personnel," says Gehrman. "We hope that by early identification of those most vulnerable, the potential exists for the designing and testing of preventive strategies that may reduce the occurrence of PTSD, anxiety, and depression.

The research team says that additional study is needed to investigate whether routine inquiry about insomnia symptoms and application of appropriate early, effective interventions reduces subsequent morbidity from . They note that in a military population, assessment of insomnia symptoms could easily be incorporated into routine pre-deployment screening.

Explore further: Post-deployment PTSD symptoms more common in military personnel with prior mental health disorders

Related Stories

Post-deployment PTSD symptoms more common in military personnel with prior mental health disorders

May 2, 2011
Military service members who screened positive for mental health disorders before deployment, or who were injured during deployment, were more likely to develop post-deployment posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms ...

Active duty military personnel prone to sleep disorders and short sleep duration

January 31, 2013
A new study found a high prevalence of sleep disorders and a startlingly high rate of short sleep duration among active duty military personnel. The study suggests the need for a cultural change toward appropriate sleep practices ...

Researchers find half of those diagnosed with PTSD also suffer from depression

June 4, 2013
About one of every two people diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) also suffer symptoms of depression, according to new research by Case Western Reserve University's Department of Psychological Sciences.

Do insomnia and disrupted sleep during menopause increase a woman's risk of heart disease?

May 9, 2013
Insomnia and other sleep disturbances are common among perimenopausal and postmenopausal women and may increase their risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) and cardiovascular disease (CVD). Evidence that a combination of altered ...

Poor sleep linked to PTSD after heart attack

May 30, 2013
Clinicians have long speculated that poor sleep may be a mechanism involved in the higher risk of further cardiac events or death among those with post-traumatic stress disorder following a heart attack, but the association ...

Study shows that insomnia may cause dysfunction in emotional brain circuitry

May 22, 2013
A new study provides neurobiological evidence for dysfunction in the neural circuitry underlying emotion regulation in people with insomnia, which may have implications for the risk relationship between insomnia and depression.

Recommended for you

Babies can learn that hard work pays off

September 21, 2017
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. A new study from MIT reveals that babies as young as 15 months can learn to follow this advice. The researchers found that babies who watched an adult struggle at two different ...

Oxytocin turns up the volume of your social environment

September 20, 2017
Before you shop for the "cuddle" hormone oxytocin to relieve stress and enhance your social life, read this: a new study from the University of California, Davis, suggests that sometimes, blocking the action of oxytocin in ...

Researchers develop new tool to assess individual's level of wisdom

September 20, 2017
Researchers at University of San Diego School of Medicine have developed a new tool called the San Diego Wisdom Scale (SD-WISE) to assess an individual's level of wisdom, based upon a conceptualization of wisdom as a trait ...

Alcohol use affects levels of cholesterol regulator through epigenetics

September 20, 2017
In an analysis of the epigenomes of people and mice, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine and the National Institutes of Health report that drinking alcohol may induce changes to a cholesterol-regulating gene.

Self-control may not diminish throughout the day

September 20, 2017
After a long day of work and carefully watching what you eat, you might expect your self-control to slip a little by kicking back and cracking open a bag of potato chips.

One in four girls is depressed at age 14, new study reveals

September 20, 2017
New research shows a quarter of girls (24%) and one in 10 boys (9%) are depressed at age 14.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.