Self-reported sleep problems in active-duty US Army personnel receiving posttraumatic stress disorder treatment in group or individual formats: Secondary analysis of a randomized clinical trial

Pruiksma, K. E., Taylor, D. J., Wachen, J. S., Straud, C. L., Hale, W. J., Mintz, J., Young-McCaughan, S., Peterson, A. L., Yarvis, J. S., Borah, E. V., Dondanville, K. A., Litz, B. T., & Resick, P. A., on behalf of the STRONG STAR Consortium
Aug 2, 2023

Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 19(8), 1389-1398.

Sleep disturbances are common in military personnel with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and may persist following treatment. This study examined service members seeking treatment for PTSD reporting insomnia symptoms, nightmares, excessive daytime sleepiness, and potential obstructive sleep apnea at baseline and the impact of sleep disturbances on a course of PTSD treatment.

In this secondary analysis, sleep was evaluated in 223 service members who participated in a randomized clinical trial comparing Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) for PTSD delivered in individual or group formats. Sleep assessments included the Insomnia Severity Index (ISI), the Trauma-Related Nightmare Survey (TRNS), and Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS) administered at baseline and 2 weeks posttreatment.

Following PTSD treatment, there were significant improvements for insomnia symptoms (MΔ = -1.49; d = -0.27), nightmares (MΔ = -0.35; d = -0.27), and excessive daytime sleepiness (MΔ = -0.91; d = -0.16). However, mean scores remained in clinical ranges at posttreatment. Participants with baseline insomnia symptoms had worse PTSD severity throughout treatment. Participants with baseline excessive daytime sleepiness or probable obstructive sleep apnea had greater PTSD severity reductions when treated with CPT individually versus in a group. Those with insomnia symptoms, nightmare disorder, and sleep apnea had greater depressive symptoms throughout treatment.

Insomnia symptoms, nightmares, and excessive daytime sleepiness were high at baseline in service members seeking treatment for PTSD. While sleep symptoms improved with PTSD treatment, these sleep disorders were related to worse treatment outcomes with regards to symptoms of PTSD and depression. Individual CPT is recommended over group CPT for patients with either excessive daytime sleepiness or probable obstructive sleep apnea.