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Links persist in relatively young veterans, even after controlling for PTSD.
Nightmares that occurred twice a week or more were linked with cardiovascular disease in relatively young military veterans, even after controlling for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a cross-sectional study showed.
After also adjusting for PTSD, depression, and current smoking, severely distressing dreams continued to be associated with heart problems, hypertension, and other heart trouble,” Ulmer said in a presentation at virtual SLEEP 2020, a joint meeting of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and the Sleep Research Society.
“Research on heart rate variability supports the likelihood of abnormal autonomic function during sleep among those with PTSD. However, we haven’t taken a look at what role nightmares specifically might play in contributing to increased risk in this population,” Ulmer noted.
“While some have suggested that the association between PTSD and cardiovascular disease is solely due to poor health behaviors among those with PTSD, our findings suggest an important role for sleep and that there may be an independent role for nightmares, in particular for conferring cardiovascular disease,” she said.