Sleep Apnea Spelling Trouble For Patients With PTSD

soldier snore photo
Photo by Harald Groven

Post-traumatic stress disorder can cripple the lives of those who deal with it on a daily basis. It is estimated that 31 percent of Vietnam veterans, 10 percent of Gulf War veterans, and 11 percent of Afghanistan veterans live with post-traumatic stress disorder. Many people forget that PTSD is not just limited to soldiers, as the condition is commonly found among victims of sexual assault, acts of terrorism, or other traumatic incidents. A recent study has found that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) patients that also have PTSD have a drastic decline in their quality of life compared to patients with only sleep apnea. Dealing with PTSD is hard enough without having to deal with potentially life threatening breathing issues while they are sleeping. What exactly is causing this alarming trend, and how can we address this issue?


CPAP Adherence  

The study which was conducted at the Sleep Disorders Center at the San Antonio Military Medical Center in Fort Sam Houston, TX performed sleep studies on 200 soldiers with PTSD and found that over half also had OSA. The researchers then paired these soldiers with PTSD and OSA with 50 soldiers that had OSA but no PTSD and 50 soldiers without PTSD or OSA as a control. They found that the soldiers with both PTSD and OSA had worse quality of life measurements, were more sleepy, and less adherence and response to continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment.

While CPAP machines are considered the gold standard for treating patients with OSA they are often noisy, cumbersome, and some find the face masks restrictive. Patients who also have PTSD often deal with sleep avoidance, night terrors, dream enacting behavior, and periodic limb movement disorder. Any one of these would make sleeping with a CPAP device difficult, but PTSD patients typically deal with a combination of these. One study has shown that PTSD patients who adhere to CPAP treatment see a 75% improvement in PTSD symptoms. Clearly, treatment for OSA not only improves their sleeping, but can also improve their general quality of life. With that being said, if there is no adherence there is no improvement. Are there alternatives to CPAP available that are less cumbersome?


Alternatives to CPAP

Fortunately, for those who are having difficulty using CPAP there are some alternatives available. Recently the FDA has approved of an implant that is similar to a pacemaker which stimulates the upper airway, allowing uninterrupted airflow during sleep. For those looking for a more conservative approach, dental appliances can be personally fitted by a dentist. Dental appliances work by positioning the jaw in a way so that the soft palate is lifted, which keeps your airflow uninterrupted with you sleep.


Don’t Leave it Up to Chance

If you or a loved one are living with PTSD and OSA, don’t let your CPAP device turn you off from treatment. If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to a number of serious illnesses. If you live in the Austin area and have any questions about sleep apnea, or would like to be fitted for a dental appliance, please consider paying Dr. Dan Matthews a visit. He can help get you on the right track to a good night’s sleep. If you have any questions, or would like to schedule an appointment, call Dan Matthews, DDS at (512) 520-0606.

Dan Matthews DDS
Dan Matthews Dan Matthews DDS The Park at Eanes Creek,
4407 Bee Cave Road
Building 2, Suite 221
Austin, Texas, 78746
(512) 452-2273
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