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Veterans with PTSD at higher risk for sleep apnea

Researchers found that 69 percent of veterans who were evaluated for self-reported PTSD symptoms also were at high risk for sleep apnea.

By Stephen Feller
Veterans with PTSD at higher risk for sleep apnea
Young U.S. veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder are at a high risk for sleep apnea, according to a new study. Photo by KieferPix/Shutterstock

DARIEN, Ill., May 20 (UPI) -- Young veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, have a high probability of obstructive sleep disorder, according to a small study.

Researchers found that 69 percent of veterans who were evaluated for self-reported PTSD symptoms were at high risk for sleep apnea.

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"The implication is that veterans who come to PTSD treatment, even younger veterans, should be screened for obstructive sleep apnea so that they have the opportunity to be diagnosed and treated," said Sonya Norman, PhD, researcher at the San Diego VA, director of the PTSD Consultation Program at the National Center for PTSD, and an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, in a press release. "This is critical information because sleep apnea is a risk factor for a long list of health problems such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and psychological problems including depression, worsening PTSD and anxiety."

The study was conducted based on veterans also reporting snoring and fatigue, motivating researchers to launch the investigation. Among the 159 veterans included in the study, 69 percent were seen as being at high risk for sleep apnea.

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Younger veterans generally aren't screened for sleep apnea, however researchers believe that aspects of PTSD, such as disturbed sleep and sleep deprivation, psychological and physical stressors of combat, hyperarousal due to those stressors, may increase the chances of sleep apnea occurring.

The study is published in Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

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