Sleep Apnea

PTSD and Sleep Apnea – The Dangerous Combination You Need To Know About

A new study finds that many people suffering from PTSD may also experience Sleep Apnea. Certain types of wartime trauma, nightmares, and PTSD can all severely disrupt sleep and are all now linked to Sleep Apnea. The study also found that treatment with a CPAP machine can improve the person’s sleep as well as help mitigate some of the symptoms of PTSD.


PTSD and Sleep Apnea

In 2010, a group of doctors began exploring the theory that veterans who experience PTSD may be at a higher risk for developing Obstructive Sleep Apnea. PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a condition of persistent mental and emotional stress, usually as a result of a traumatizing experience, like warfare. Patients who experience PTSD may also experience sleep disorders like insomnia or frequent nightmares. The study wasn’t based around the normal symptoms that could lead to the development of Sleep Apnea, like obesity or older age, but rather with the present sleep issues PTSD patients were experiencing and how that may increase their risk for developing Sleep Apnea in their lifetime.



The Study Linking Sleep Apnea and PTSD

A study was done with a group of 159 veterans, ranging in age from 21 to 59 years old, of which 93% were male. The patients were monitored for a period of time and doctors began to draw links between the severity of the patient’s PTSD symptoms and the risk it put them for developing Obstructive Sleep Apnea1. While the exact link between PTSD and Sleep Apnea has yet to be discovered, the study did reveal that the main triggers of PTSD that put patients at a higher risk for developing Sleep Apnea were chronic stress and sleep deprivation. Of the 159 veterans that were tested in this study, 69.2% were found to be at a high risk for Obstructive Sleep Apnea



Veterans Should Be Screened for Sleep Apnea, Too

While the normal signs and symptoms of Sleep Apnea are typically focused around age and weight, in PTSD patients these factors didn’t seem to matter. Rather, it was their existing sleep disorders and chronic stress that put them at a higher risk for developing Sleep Apnea. It was advised after this study that all veterans should be screened for Sleep Apnea secondary to PTSD, regardless of the severity of their PTSD symptoms, age, or weight, as they are already at a higher than normal risk.



CPAP Therapy Can Improve Sleep Apnea and PTSD Symptoms

After further studies, it was also found that patients experiencing both PTSD and Sleep Apnea who adhered to CPAP therapy, following their treatment plan, noticed an improvement in their PTSD symptoms. There have been several studies that show the use of CPAP machines can help reduce the number of PTSD related nightmares and improve the patient’s overall quality of sleep and life.



Why Sleep Apnea Treatment Is Important

Like PTSD, Obstructive Sleep Apnea is not something to be taken lightly. When left untreated, it can lead to serious health issues like high blood pressure, weight gain, heart disease, memory problems, and can even cause a stroke. These factors can put even more stress on the body, worsening the chronic stress most PTSD patients already experience.

The good news is Sleep Apnea treatment is easy and readily available. Veterans whose Sleep Apnea developed as a result of their PTSD can seek help from the VA disability for Sleep Apnea treatment. The most common way to treat Sleep Apnea, and what has been found most successful in reducing PTSD-related sleep disorders, is with the use of CPAP machines. However, it is important to remain vigilant with CPAP therapy and adhere to the treatment plan laid out by your doctor. Not sticking to that plan would result in very little improvement. If you’re unable to adjust to a CPAP machine, you can explore alternatives to CPAP that may still provide the symptom relief for both PTSD and Sleep Apnea.


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1. Colvonen, Peter J et al. “Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder among OEF/OIF/OND Veterans.” Journal of clinical sleep medicine: JCSM: official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine vol. 11,5 513-8. 15 May. 2015, doi:10.5664/jcsm.4692


  1. I’m a 60 us veteran,I do have PTSD,and I have a great deal of
    Trouble sleeping,or I sleep to hard.
    My wife saids I sore, I do have nightmares of when I got stabbed
    And robbed in service.
    And I’m very 5,8 181 lbs
    A non smoker a non drinker and no drugs.

    I’ll be doing a home sleep study

    • Hey Donald, thank you for your service to our country! I’m glad to hear that you will be having a sleep study. Please feel free to reach us with any questions or concerns by calling 1-800-356-5221, or e-mail us at:

      We wish you the best!

  2. Betty Hauck Reply

    Very interesting article, however I must take issue with one point – I disagree that OSA is easily treatable. For many of us who are prescribed CPAP therapy, it is a tough road. You only need to read the comments in online CPAP groups to know how much people struggle to adapt. It took me two months and a lot of experimentation to learn to finally adjust to having that piece of plastic and silicone clamped on to my face. But I was motivated because I had been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation which is also correlated with OSA. (And it was well worth sticking with it, my quality of life had improved so much since I began treatment.) There is a 40% non-compliance rate in CPAP treatment. Insurance companies are well aware of this and require proof of compliance to continue paying for treatment.
    No, it is not easy. For some it may be, but for many of us it is not.

    • Hi Betty, my apologies for the delayed response. Thank you for your feedback and I’m glad you made the decision to stick with your therapy. I totally agree with you as, the timeframe to become acclimated and reap the benefits of CPAP therapy does vary widely from patient to patient.

      The Author’s intention is to inform readers that there are treatments available for Sleep Apnea. The Author, does acknowledge that some CPAP users may not be able to adjust to the use of a CPAP machine and in these instances there are alternative treatment options available.

      For further questions, or concerns, please feel free to reach us at: 1-800-356-5221, or you may e-mail us at:

      I wish you continued success with your CPAP therapy!

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