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Volume 14 No. 05
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Accepted Papers

Scientific Investigations

Sleep Disturbances in Australian Vietnam Veterans With and Without Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Timothy Baird, BSc, MBBS, DTM&H, FRACP1; Sarah McLeay, BSc, PhD2; Wendy Harvey, BSc, MBBS, MPH1,2; Rebecca Theal, BSc2; Dayna Law, BSc, MBBS, FRACP1; Robyn O'Sullivan, MBBS, FRACP1; on behalf of the PTSD Initiative
1Greenslopes Private Hospital, Brisbane, Australia; 2Gallipoli Medical Research Institute, Brisbane, Australia

Study Objectives:

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that may develop after a traumatic event, particularly combat-related trauma. Although sleep disturbance is a hallmark of PTSD, the prevalence of sleep disturbances in Australian veterans with PTSD remains uncertain. This study aimed to subjectively compare the prevalence of sleep disturbances in Australian Vietnam veterans with and without PTSD.


A cross-sectional cohort study compared trauma-exposed Australian Vietnam veterans with and without PTSD. PTSD diagnosis was confirmed using the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale for DSM-5. Sleep information was evaluated using supervised structured questionnaires, including Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS) and Berlin and Mayo Questionnaires.


Two hundred fourteen male Vietnam veterans (108 with PTSD) were included. Participants with PTSD had higher body mass index (30.3 versus 29 kg/m2; P < .05), higher ESS score (9.2 versus 7.6; P < .05), and increased alcohol or medication use to assist with sleep (19% versus 6%; P < .01; and 44% versus 14%; P < .01). Those with PTSD were less likely to sleep well (32% versus 72%; P < .01) and reported higher rates of restless legs (45% versus 25%; P < .01), nightmares (91% versus 29%; P < .01), nocturnal screaming (73% versus 18%; P < .01), sleep terrors (61% versus 13%; P < .01) and dream enactment (78% versus 11.8%; P < .01). The PTSD group had higher rates of diagnosed OSA (42% versus 21%; P < .01) and an increased risk of OSA on the Berlin Questionnaire (69% versus 43%; P < .01).


Compared to trauma-exposed controls, Australian Vietnam veterans with PTSD demonstrated an increased prevalence of a wide range of sleep disturbances, including OSA. In veterans with PTSD, detailed sleep assessment, including consideration of polysomnography, is paramount.


Baird T, McLeay S, Harvey W, Theal R, Law D, O'Sullivan R; PTSD Initiative. Sleep disturbances in Australian Vietnam veterans with and without posttraumatic stress disorder. J Clin Sleep Med. 2018;14(5):745–752.

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