Sleep disturbances and psychiatric disorders associated with posttraumatic stress disorder in the general population.

Research paper by M M MM Ohayon, C M CM Shapiro

Indexed on: 22 Nov '00Published on: 22 Nov '00Published in: Comprehensive Psychiatry


The aim of the study was to assess sleep disturbances in subjects with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from an urban general population and to identify associated psychiatric disorders in these subjects. The study was performed with a representative sample of 1,832 respondents aged 15 to 90 years living in the Metropolitan Toronto area who were surveyed by telephone (participation rate, 72.8%). Interviewers used Sleep-EVAL, an expert system specifically designed to conduct epidemiologic studies of sleep and mental disorders in the general population. Overall, 11.6% of the sample reported having experienced a traumatic event, with no difference in the proportion of men and women. Approximately 2% (1.8%) of the entire sample were diagnosed by the system as having PTSD at the time of interview. The rate was higher for women (2.6%) than for men (0.9%), which translated into an odds ratio (OR) of 2.8 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.3 to 6.1). PTSD was strongly associated with other mental disorders: 75.7% of respondents with PTSD received at least one other diagnosis. Most concurrent disorders (80.7%) appeared after exposure to the traumatic event. Sleep disturbances also affected about 70% of the PTSD subjects. Violent or injurious behaviors during sleep, sleep paralysis, sleep talking, and hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations were more frequently reported in respondents with PTSD. Considering the relatively high prevalence of PTSD and its important comorbidity with other sleep and psychiatric disorders, an assessment of the history of traumatic events should be part of a clinician's routine inquiry in order to limit chronicity and maladjustment following a traumatic exposure. Moreover, complaints of rapid eye movement (REM)-related sleep symptoms could be an indication of an underlying problem stemming from PTSD.