Sleep appears to contribute in important ways to the development and maintenance of posttraumatic stress disorder or PTSD as well as to recovery from, and resilience to adverse effects of trauma. However, uncertainty regarding relationships between sleep and PTSD exists such that opposing views of sleep's role as consolidating versus adaptively processing trauma memories have both been recently expressed in the literature. The goal for this exploratory/developmental research application is to establish a paradigm for testing relationships between sleep parameters and processing trauma memories. If successful, and hypotheses are supported, the procedures will be applied to developing pharmacological and other interventions to enhance sleep's benefits, and to evaluate thresholds for detrimental effects of sleep restriction and disruption. In developing a novel approach we will also be evaluating the effects of written narrative disclosure sessions in the evening and morning with intervening sleep (overnight and daytime to evaluate for time of day effects) or wake, including its potential impact on sleep, PTSD symptoms, and non-specific distress. We will utilize a within subjects cross-over design to determine whether sessions of narrative disclosure with an intervening sleep period will be more effective than sessions separated by a wake period in effecting habituation and other indices of adaptive emotional processing. We will determine which indices of emotional processing are most sensitive to sleep effects. We will also evaluate the influence of characteristics of intervening sleep including measures of REM continuity.
Sleep appears to be important to recovery from and prevention of posttraumatic stress and disrupted sleep contributes to PTSD. There is controversy, however, about the specific role for sleep in processing traumatic memories. The proposed research will develop an approach for resolving these uncertainties that will have implications for treatment and prevention of posttraumatic distress and PTSD.