Sleep Deprivation After Trauma Could Prevent PTSD Monday, August 20, 2012
Six hours of wakefulness reduces the likelihood of post-traumatic symptoms, a TAU researcher finds
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a severe anxiety condition that can develop after exposure to trauma, such as a car crash or a terrorist attack. Approximately 20 percent of those who have experienced trauma develop the disorder, with symptoms including flashbacks, nightmares, paranoia, and insomnia.
Prof. Joseph Zohar of Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine, working in collaboration with Prof. Hagit Cohen of Ben-Gurion University, has discovered a simple but effective way of keeping this devastating disorder in check. The researchers found that sleep deprivation for a period of just six hours after exposure to a traumatic event dramatically reduced the risk of PTSD symptoms.
After a traumatic event, patients are often encouraged to "sleep-off" their anxiety and distress, the researchers say. But because memory is a significant component of PTSD, Profs. Zohar and Cohen decided to study what might happen if patients went through a significant period of sleep deprivation instead. Testing their theory in the laboratory, they found that a group of rats made to stay awake after a traumatic experience did not demonstrate any memory of the event later on. A second group that was allowed to sleep after trauma, however, appeared to recall their experiences.
The next stage of this research, which was published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, will be to conduct a pilot study on humans.