Sleep in post-traumatic stress disorder and panic: Convergence and divergence



Disturbed sleep is a common clinical problem in anxiety disorders, particularly in patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and panic disorder (PD). Several studies have attempted to validate the subjective sleep complaints of these disorders using laboratory polysomnography. These attempts, typically focusing on PTSD or PD independently, have demonstrated inconsistent results. To our knowledge, no such studies have attempted to directly compare and contrast sleep disturbances in PTSD and PD together. Our review of the studies of subjective sleep disturbances, sleep architecture, and sleep-related biologic phenomena suggests that a comparative characterization of sleep disturbances in these two disorders is timely. Such an inference is based on our identification of several areas of convergence and divergence between PTSD and PD found in the published literature, as well as our own preliminary investigations. Specifically, PTSD and PD seem to converge on several sleep-related parameters, namely, sleep quality, presence of episodic parasomnias, and movement time. They also appear to diverge in other important sleep-related areas such as respiratory disturbances and the particular phenomenological nature of episodic parasomnias, namely nightmares or nocturnal panic attacks. Investigations focusing on such overlapping phenomena may provide groundwork for further elucidation of central fear systems underlying these two disorders. Additionally, such sleep studies have the potential to provide important insights into ongoing efforts to develop a cohesive conceptual framework into the pathophysiologies of these disorders. Depression and Anxiety 18:187–197, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.