Heart Attacks, Sleep Disturbances, And PTSD


Sleep disorders post heart attack need to be taken seriously: Getty Image via cnn.comSleep disorders post heart attack need to be taken seriously: Getty Image via cnn.comMost of us don't immediately associate post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with heart attacks, but when we stop and think about it... a heart attack is a hell-of-a traumatic event, one which could certainly induce symptoms of PTSD.

A study conducted at Columbia University Medical Center last year confirmed that indeed 1 in 8 heart attack patients suffered from PTSD as a direct result of their heart attacks. Surviving patients with resulting PTSD have twice the risk of another heart attack and/or death within one to three years. The current study, summarized below, analyzes the relationship between sleep and PTSD in patients who recently suffered heart attacks and implies that the incidence of PTSD in this cohort may be even greater than 1 in 8 patients.

Published in the current Annals of Behavioral Medicine by Jonathon H. Shaffer, PhD, and his research team from Columbia's Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health, the research subjects were 200 patients from the New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center who had suffered heart attacks within the prior month.  The data showed that the most prevalent symptom of PTSD among these patients was poor sleep - e.g., bad sleep quality, shorter sleep duration, frequent sleep disturbances, use of sleep medications, and daytime dysfunction due to poor sleep the night before. 

Poor sleep and PTSD were shown to have such a strong association that the researchers concluded that the two be seen as comorbid disturbances, rather than one as a symptom of the other. This conclusion will no doubt strengthen the behavioral approaches used to treat PTSD and sleep disorders after heart attacks in the future, but the team stresses that more research into these relationships must follow.

Additional observations were made from the data collected in this study: Those most likely to have PTSD as a consequence of heart attacks were women, patients with a higher body mass index, and those suffering from depression.  They were less likely to be Hispanic than the other races studied in the group.

sources:  MedXpress, PlosOne, Annals of Behavioral Medicine