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Sleep Apnea Risk Found to Rise With PTSD Severity in Veterans

Researcher suggests OSA screening for vets presenting for PTSD treatment

MONDAY, June 1, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- For U.S. veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the risk of sleep apnea increases along with the severity of the mental health condition, according to a study published in the May issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

Researchers looked at 195 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who visited a Veterans Affairs outpatient PTSD clinic for evaluation. About 69 percent were at high risk for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and the risk rose along with PTSD symptom severity, the study authors found.

Every clinically significant increase in PTSD symptom severity was associated with a 40 percent increase in being at high risk for OSA. "The implication is that veterans who come to PTSD treatment, even younger veterans, should be screened for OSA so that they have the opportunity to be diagnosed and treated," co-principal investigator Sonya Norman, Ph.D., a researcher at the San Diego VA, said in a news release from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Possible factors that may connect the two disorders include combat-related sleep disturbances, chronic stress from PTSD, and poor sleep caused by sleep apnea, the researchers suggested. Further research is needed to learn more about the link between sleep apnea and PTSD.

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