Sleep-disordered breathing, psychiatric distress, and quality of life impairment in sexual assault survivors

Barry Krakow, Dominic Melendrez, Lisa Johnston, Teddy D Warner, James O Clark, Mary Pacheco, Beth Pedersen, Mary Koss, Michael Hollifield, Ron Schrader
Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 2002, 190 (7): 442-52
Using American Academy of Sleep Medicine research criteria, sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) was assessed in a pilot study of 187 sexual assault survivors with posttraumatic stress symptoms. Nightmares, sleep quality, distress, and quality of life were also assessed along with historical accounts of prior treatments for sleep complaints. Presumptive SDB diagnoses were established for 168 patients. Twenty-one of 168 underwent sleep testing, and all met objective SDB diagnostic criteria. There were no clinically meaningful differences in age, body-mass index, sleep quality, distress, or quality of life measures between 21 confirmed SDB cases and 147 suspected cases not tested. Compared with 19 women without SDB, 168 women with diagnosed or suspected SDB reported significantly worse nightmares, sleep quality, anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress, and impaired quality of life. Despite suffering from sleep problems for an average of 20 years, which had not responded to repeated use of psychotropic medications or psychotherapy, few of these women had been referred to sleep specialists. SDB appears widespread among sexual assault survivors seeking help for nightmares. Research is needed to clarify the associations among SDB, distress, and physical and mental health impairment in trauma patients.

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