Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can develop in individuals who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, including an accident, assault, terrorist act or combat. It affects 3.5 percent of the adults in the United States, and one in 11 people will be diagnosed with the condition in their lifetime. While women are twice as likely as men to have PTSD, the condition can affect anyone. Its effects often include depression, insomnia and anxiety.

As if that's not enough to deal with, new research from Maimonides Sleep Arts & Sciences in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has found that those living with PTSD may have something else to worry about: a dangerous sleep breathing disorder known as sleep apnea.

Surprised or Not?

If you have PTSD or live with someone who does, you may not be surprised that it is being connected to sleep apnea, as many people with the condition report having difficulty staying asleep at night (insomnia). Some studies have found that up to 80 percent of people living with PTSD have sleep apnea. However, many people with PTSD are untreated for sleep apnea, particularly obstructive sleep apnea. This form of sleep apnea is the most common form of the sleep breathing disorder and develops when the airway becomes blocked by the tongue or muscles of the throat collapsing and blocking the flow of air into the lungs.

For many PTSD patients, their lack of sleep is simply chalked up as 'insomnia,' not sleep apnea.

During the New Mexico study, doctors used CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) therapy on patients with PTSD, including those who had not been diagnosed with sleep apnea. They found that the individuals who maintained their CPAP treatment saw improvement in their 'insomnia,' which meant that it was not classic insomnia keeping them up, it was obstructive sleep apnea.

Some study participants did not continue their CPAP therapy, often citing that their CPAP machines were uncomfortable or loud.

Fortunately, CPAP therapy isn't the only way to treat OSA; many people find success by treating the condition with custom-fitted oral appliances. Worn while you sleep, these devices work by moving your jaw into a more favorable position to keep the airway open and prevent the tongue and throat muscles from collapsing.

Are you living with PTSD and tossing and turning each night trying to sleep? We'd love to talk to you about how an oral appliance may help. Call Legends Dental at 254-799-9540 to schedule a consultation today.

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