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Polusny MA, Erbes CR. Pre-deployment sleep disturbances as predictors of PTSD and depression in National Guard troops. Paper presented at: International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies Annual Symposium; 2012 Nov 3; Los Angeles, CA.
Disturbed sleep is commonly thought to be a risk factor for the development of a number of psychiatric diagnoses, including PTSD. Although a number of theories have been put forth to describe the role of disturbed sleep in the development of PTSD, there have been no prospective studies investigating this relationship. This study used a prospective longitudinal design to examine whether pre-deployment sleep disturbances predict post-deployment diagnosis and maintenance of PTSD. Data were obtained as part of the Readiness and Resilience in National Guard Soldiers (RINGS) project, a longitudinal study of 522 US National Guard soldiers deployed to Iraq. Data on sleep disturbance and psychopathology were gathered pre-deployment and at three time points post-deployment over the course of two years, using both questionnaire (e.g., BDI, PCL, AUDIT) and interview measures (SCID, CAPS). Pre-deployment sleep problems, including insomnia and nightmares, were a significant predictor of post-deployment PTSD and depression, even after controlling for negative emotionality. Moreover, sleep disturbance remained a significant predictor of PTSD and depression two years after trauma exposure, suggesting that it predicts both onset and chronicity of these disorders. In contrast, sleep disturbance was not a consistent predictor of substance use across time points. This study suggests that sleep disturbance represents a transdiagnostic a risk factor for psychopathology, in particular the internalizing disorders.