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PTSD sleep study receives OCAST funding

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Three-year grant to examine how sleep and nightmare therapy can enhance PTSD treatment

The University of Tulsa Institute of Trauma, Adversity and Injustice has received $123,000 in state research funding from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST). The grant will support the institute’s efforts to better understand how sleep and nightmare treatment enhances general treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The experience of a traumatic event and resulting negative effects are significant public health concerns and can cause reduced worker productivity, interpersonal dysfunction, physical and mental health changes and related healthcare costs, TU officials said. Among the many effects of trauma, sleep disturbances and nightmares are some of the most frequently reported PTSD symptoms.

Psychology graduate students and faculty will evaluate 90 individuals during the next three years in two appointments following PTSD treatment. The researchers will team up with TU nursing faculty to examine clinical interviews and patient reports regarding multiple mental and behavioral health factors — largely focused on post-traumatic stress symptoms, depression, sleep quality and quantity, nightmares and emotion regulation.

“Targeting sleep and nightmares can help improve function and reduce PTSD symptoms in a way that may make it easier for people to reap the full benefits of PTSD treatment,” said Joanne Davis, codirector of the Tulsa Institute for Trauma, Adversity and Injustice and associate professor of psychology.

The institute has offered sleep and nightmare treatment for 13 years, but Davis said the OCAST grant marks the first time TU’s methods will be examined in combination with another first line treatment. “By addressing a possible mechanism underlying both nightmares and PTSD, the TU study could change the manner in which these conditions are conceptualized and treated,” Davis said.

The treatment is free to all participating patients. Other studies ongoing in the Department of Psychology are the examination of sleep and nightmare treatment in children, people without PTSD who have nightmares and people with sleep problems who have bipolar disorder.

Joanne Davis