Mar 30, 2017

A good nights rest comes naturally for most people, but for sufferers of post traumtatic stress disorder there is a number of serious sleep conditions putting their overall health at risk…

While sleep disturbance is a key symptom of PTSD, our Vietnam Veteran Study, supported by RSL Queensland, identified that PTSD sufferers are more likely to have obstructive sleep apnoea, unusual sleep behaviours (like acting out dreams and vocalisation during sleep), and restless leg syndrome.

Speak to your GP if you have problems with your sleep, or if you have any other questions about your health.

This study, involving 300 Vietnam veterans, examined relationships between physical illnesses like heart disease, gastric complaints and sleep disorders and the psychological symptoms of PTSD.

From this research GMRF & RSL Queensland has developed a national education program that will equip GPs and other healthcare professionals with new strategies to better identify the signs and symptoms of PTSD. Through increased awareness of PTSD and improved education, we can help change the lives of more than one million Australians who are suffering from this debilitating condition. Now, why can’t I get to sleep???

Barriers to sleep

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a sleep disorder in which your breathing stops periodically during sleep due to airway obstruction from relaxation of the tongue or airway muscles. Common symptoms of OSA are snoring, waking up unrefreshed, daytime tiredness, slowed or stopped breathing during sleep, or waking up choking or gasping for air. However, many people with OSA are unaware they have it.

People with OSA have a higher risk of a range of diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, depression, and impotence. Therefore, if you are at risk of OSA, it is important to be diagnosed and treated. Treating OSA can you make you sleep better and feel better during the day, and it can also reduce your longer-term cardiovascular risk.

OSA is diagnosed by having a sleep study in which a variety of measurements are taken while you sleep such as your breathing pattern, heart rate, and blood oxygen levels. A specialist in sleep medicine then analyses your results to determine the severity of your OSA, and whether you require treatment.

There are a variety of treatment options for OSA, but as the causes can vary there is no single treatment that works for everyone. Treatment may include:

  • Weight loss if you are overweight
  • Reducing alcohol consumption
  • Changing body position for sleep (not sleeping on your back)
  • Oral appliances
  • Continuous positive airways pressure (CPAP)

If you have OSA, your sleep specialist will help you determine what treatment is right for you.

Restless legs syndrome or RLS is a condition of the nervous system that results in the uncontrollable urge to move the legs. It is a major cause of difficulty falling asleep and disturbing your sleep, or your bed partner’s sleep. People with RLS may also have periodic limb movement of sleep (PLMS), which is a more common condition characterised by involuntary leg twitching or jerking during sleep that may affect sleep quality.

The severity of RLS symptoms may be lessened by reducing caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine intake. It is important to see your doctor if you think you may have RLS as other underlying causes such as diabetes, kidney problems or iron deficiency may also require treatment. Your doctor may also prescribe medication to help reduce the symptoms of RLS.

Tips for Better Sleep

Stick to a bedtime routine: Make sure you are feeling sleepy when you go to bed,
and don’t go to bed too early or too late. Aim to be up at the same time each morning and avoid napping during the day.

  • Follow a relaxing activity before bedtime: Reduce excitement, stress or anxiety by having a warm bath or shower, reading or meditating before you sleep.
  • Avoid food for two hours before bedtime, limit caffeine and alcohol intake and avoid caffeine later in the day.
  • Exercise regularly: Burn off extra energy by engaging in moderate to vigorous exercise in the morning or early in the evening.
  • Early morning sunlight: Exposure to natural light early in the morning promotes
    hormones that help set the body clock and promote a wakeful state.
  • Limit use of devices with screens before bed.
  • Make sure you are comfortable with a good mattress, pillow and fresh bedding.