PTSD and Sleep: Rest Easier with Treatment, PTSD Monthly Update - October 2019

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PTSD Monthly Update

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Feature Topic

For Providers

Research at the Center

PTSD in the News

October 2019 Issue


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Feature Topic

PTSD and Sleep: Rest Easier with Treatment

PTSD and Sleep: Rest Easier with Treatment

"The nightmares were the hardest part because they were recurring. I didn't sleep well – I'd sleep an hour and a half, two hours at a time…it was kicking my butt. I was working at the time and I was tired all the time going into work…"

For U.S. Army Veteran (1980-2008) Kevin Cottrell, PTSD came with sleep problems that made it difficult for him to do his job.

Mr. Cottrell's experience is common. Many who are diagnosed with PTSD also have sleep problems. And when sleep problems last, they can have a negative impact on many parts of your life. The good news is, treatment can help!

Kevin shares in the National Center for PTSD's AboutFace video that getting treatment for PTSD helped him turn his life around: "After I’ve received therapy, it's getting better, slowly but surely."

Recognize Sleep Concerns

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have I had difficulty sleeping (getting to sleep, staying asleep, waking up too early) several nights a week for several months?
  • Do I feel sluggish or have low energy?
  • Have I noticed changes in my concentration or mood?
  • Do I dread the idea of trying to sleep, instead of looking forward to it?
  • Have I woken up gasping for air?

If you answered yes to any of the questions, then talk with your provider about getting a sleep assessment and discuss sleep treatment options.

Seek Treatment

If you have PTSD and sleep problems, ask your provider about evidence-based treatment options. Treating your PTSD can help improve your sleep problems. If your sleep problems continue after you complete a front-line treatment for PTSD, talk to your provider about options for sleep-related treatments.

If you have been diagnosed with insomnia, consider Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I). CBT-I is a talk therapy that is the most effective treatment for insomnia. CBT-I does not require medication either. For people who are doing CBT-I, the National Center for PTSD has a free treatment companion mobile CBT-I Coach. Also, VA has a free Veteran online training called Path to Better Sleep to help address insomnia symptoms.

Manage Sleep Difficulties

Treatment is the best option if you have lasting sleep problems. But these tips can also help temporarily:

  • Have a 30-minute wind down time before bed.
  • Go to bed when sleepy.
  • Get out of bed if you find yourself “trying” to sleep. Engage in a relaxation activity until you feel sleepy and then go back into bed.
  • Have a consistent wake time.
  • Make your bed and sleeping environment comfortable.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs before bed.
  • Limit your caffeine use.

Visit the National Center for PTSD's website to learn more about the relationship between PTSD and sleep problems.

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For Providers

PTSD Consultation Program

Consult with PTSD Experts

PTSD Consultation Program offers free PTSD consultation to any provider who treats Veterans in any setting.

This program is open to Community Providers.

PTSD Lecture Series

  • November 20, 2019: Addressing Sleep: A Strategy for Symptom Reduction & Suicide Prevention?, Wilfred Pigeon, PhD

Register for Free Continuing Education Credits

Registration is free and is required before the lecture to receive continuing education credit. Credits are available from: ACCME, ACCME-NP, APA, ANCC, NBCC, ASWB, and NYSED SW.

  • VA Providers: Register in TMS
  • Non-VA Providers: Register in TRAIN

Mark Your Calendar

Third Wednesday of the month at 2pm ET. Download a calendar reminder to save the date.


Sign up to receive monthly emails that include a registration link and instructions for joining the live lectures.

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Research at the Center

Digital Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Veterans with Insomnia and Comorbid Psychopathology

National Center for PTSD researchers are evaluating the impact of digitally administered CBT-I, using the Sleepio platform, for the treatment of insomnia disorder among Veterans with comorbid psychopathology.

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PTSD in the News

New Women Veteran’s Group Gives Women a Sense of Belonging. Research from Saint Louis University and the National Center for PTSD finds treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that leads to an improvement in symptoms was associated with a 49 percent lower risk of incident type 2 diabetes. Read more.*

Be sure to forward this update to others so they can subscribe. We send one update per month to keep you informed of the latest PTSD developments.

Thank you,

The Staff of VA’s National Center for PTSD

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Produced by VA’s National Center for PTSD - Executive Division
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