Sleeping GirlVeterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often experience disrupted sleep as part of their symptoms. Poor sleep quality has wide-ranging effects, causing more problems than just sleepiness. Research from the San Francisco Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center and the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco found that sleep quality has a long term effect on physical activity. The findings suggest that behavioral interventions for physical activity should include a sleep assessment.

Data for the study came from the Mind Your Heart Study, a prospective cohort study that included 736 outpatients from two VA medical centers. Clinicians assessed the participants’ for PTSD using the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS). Of the cohort, 258 members had current or subsyndromal PTSD. At the outset of the study, the participants rated their sleep quality and activity levels for the last month. A year later, they reported again on their activity levels.

Poor sleep quality predicts lower physical activity in people with PTSD. At the outset of the study, PTSD was independently associated with worse sleep quality. One year later, the people with poor sleep quality had lower physical activity compared to the rest of the cohort. Sleep quality mediates the relationship between PTSD and physical activity.

The results emphasize the importance of quality sleep as part of a healthy lifestyle. They also suggest that improving a patient’s sleep quality could encourage more physical activity.

“This study adds to the literature that shows that better sleep leads to healthier levels of exercise, and previous research has shown that better sleep leads to healthier food choices,” said American Academy of Sleep Medicine President Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler. “It is clear that healthy sleep is an essential ingredient in the recipe for a healthy life.”

This research is published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, a publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

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