Traumatised? Don’t sleep on it.

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CharismaEver had a traumatic event and been told by well-intentioned friends or colleagues that you’ll be OK after a good night’s sleep?

Well scientists at Oxford University now believe it’s the worst thing you can do.

Sleep is known to help consolidate memories so they are suggesting that sleep deprivation might be desirable  in reducing long-term psychological effects by impairing those memories.

In an experiment two groups were shown a disturbing film which included a suicide. One group went to bed as normal while the other was kept awake by staff trained to stop them falling asleep.

In the days that followed all the participants were asked  how often images from the film popped into their heads. The ones that slept were found to be more likely to experience flashbacks.

Professor Foster said “Maybe the routine treatment after such events should be gently to keep people awake – to sit with them and chat to them“. At present patients are often sedated after such events to help them sleep.

He also referred to experiences after battles in early cultures when it was more likely that the tradition was to sit round  campfire celebrating the event with alcohol.

Post traumatic stress (PTSD) can cause a number of problems for those suffering from it. Not just the flashbacks but problems concentrating, irritability and a heightened startle response.

A recent American study showed that women under 65 who had suffered traumatic experiences and had four or more symptoms of PTSD were 60% more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke in later life.

Even those without any symptoms but who had suffered some trauma were 45% more likely to suffer cardiovascular disease compared to women who hadn’t been exposed to traumatic events.

Karestan Koenen of Columbia University said “Our results provide further evidence that PTSD increase the risk of chronic disease. The medical system needs to stop treating the mind and the body as if they were separate.Patients need access to integrated mental and physical care”

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