Current Psychiatry Reports

, 19:71 | Cite as

Sleep and Dreaming in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

  • Katherine E. Miller
  • Janeese A. Brownlow
  • Steve Woodward
  • Philip R. GehrmanEmail author
Disaster Psychiatry: Trauma, PTSD, and Related Disorders (MJ Friedman, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Disaster Psychiatry: Trauma, PTSD, and Related Disorders


Purpose of Review

Sleep disturbances are core features of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This review aims to characterize sleep disturbances, summarize the knowledge regarding the relationships between trauma exposure and sleep difficulties, and highlight empirically supported and/or utilized treatments for trauma-related nightmares and insomnia.

Recent Findings

Trauma-related nightmares and insomnia, and other sleep disorders, are frequently reported among trauma survivors. The roles of fear of sleep, REM density, and decreased parasympathetic activity are beginning to inform the relationship between trauma exposure and sleep difficulties. Additionally, the potential adaptive role of sleep loss immediately following a traumatic experience is being recognized. Interventions targeting these sleep disturbances show promise in reducing symptoms.


Research in understanding the role of sleep on the development, course, and treatment of PTSD is expanding. Longitudinal investigations are needed to further elucidate these relationships and identify treatments most effective in ameliorating symptoms.


Sleep disorders Insomnia Nightmares Posttraumatic stress disorder Trauma 



A portion of the writing of this manuscript was supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Academic Affiliations, NCPTSD D&T Division VA-Sponsored Fellowship in PTSD Research and Treatment. The views expressed here are the authors’ and do not necessarily represent the views of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katherine E. Miller
    • 1
    • 2
  • Janeese A. Brownlow
    • 3
  • Steve Woodward
    • 1
    • 2
  • Philip R. Gehrman
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.National Center for PTSD, Dissemination and Training DivisionVA Palo Alto Healthcare SystemMenlo ParkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesStanford University School of MedicineStanfordUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychiatryPerelman School of Medicine at the University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  4. 4.Corporal Michael J. Crescenz Veterans Affairs Medical CenterPhiladelphiaUSA

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