PTSD, Sleep Apnea, & Dementia

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has gained a lot of attention recently, especially in light of so many war veterans coming home with this debilitating disorder. In a recent study involving over 10,000 subjects, researchers found that the risk of dementia later in life for soldiers with PTSD was twice that of people who didn’t have it, even if they weren’t wounded in battle.

Not too surprising, since both are linked to obstructive sleep apnea. In fact, it’s more likely that untreated obstructive sleep apnea is responsible for PTSD and dementia (and cardiovascular disease). Sleep apnea is known to cause brain damage via various mechanisms, including vascular insufficiency, micro-strokes and diminished brain metabolism, leading to lower brain tissue density and volume in critical areas of the brain. Obstructive sleep apnea also causes generalized over-reactivity of your involuntary nervous system. There are numerous reports of PTSD being cured years later after obstructive sleep apnea is found and treated. Since obstructive sleep apnea is so common, at least look for it before starting medications or psychotherapy. Dr. Barry Krakow is doing some cutting edge research in this area.

Did your symptoms of anxiety or panic attacks go away after treating your sleep apnea?

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2 thoughts on “PTSD, Sleep Apnea, & Dementia

  1. Hi Dr Park,

    Interesting you mention PTSD as aside Sinus washes, CPAP and Mandibular devices, we have also found that OSA sufferers benefit from bright light therapy. Litebook is the one we distribute in the UK and The Litebook Company, the Canadian firm behind the product, actually had their Litebook Elite clinically reviewed in a trial with people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder;

    Dr Youngstedt, University of South Carolina ‘Bright Light: A novel treatment for PTSD’.

    So it all seems a ‘small world’ again. OSA overlaps with PTSD, PTSD benefits from bright light, OSA benefits from bright light. And bright light generally helps with circadian rhythm, serotonin and melatonin levels and general mood, something many OSA sufferers, when untreated, struggle with.

    DO you have any experience with bright light therapy in your patients?