Trauma Associated Sleep Disorder: Clinical Developments 5 Years After Discovery
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Purpose of Review
We review recent and growing evidence that provides support for a novel parasomnia, trauma associated sleep disorder (TASD). Based on these findings, we further develop the clinical and polysomnographic (PSG) characteristics of TASD. We also address factors that precipitate TASD, develop a differential diagnosis, discuss therapy, and propose future directions for research.
Nightmares, classically a REM phenomenon, are prevalent and underreported, even in individuals with trauma exposure. When specifically queried, trauma-related nightmares (TRN) are frequently associated with disruptive nocturnal behaviors (DNB), consistent with TASD. Capture of DNB in the lab is rare but ambulatory monitoring reveals dynamic autonomic concomitants associated with disturbed dreaming. TRN may be reported in NREM as well as REM sleep, though associated respiratory events may confound this finding. Further, dream content is more distressing in REM. Therapy for this complex disorder likely requires addressing not only the specific TASD components of TRN and DNB but comorbid sleep disorders.
TASD is a unique parasomnia developing after trauma. Trauma-exposed individuals should be specifically asked about their sleep and if they have nightmares with or without DNB. Patients who report TRN warrant in-lab PSG as part of their evaluation.
KeywordsTrauma associated sleep disorder Trauma-related nightmares Disruptive nocturnal behaviors Nightmares
Compliance with Ethical Standards
The opinions and assertions in this manuscript are those of the authors and do not represent those of the Department of the Air Force, Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the US government.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.
Human and Animal Rights
All reported studies/experiments with human or animal subjects performed by the authors have been previously published and complied with all applicable ethical standards (including the Helsinki declaration and its amendments, institutional/national research committee standards, and international/national/institutional guidelines).
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