Sleep disturbance in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): a systematic review and meta-analysis of actigraphy studies

European Journal of Psychotraumatology

Catrin Lewis, Katie Lewis, Neil Kitchiner, Samantha Isaac , Ian Jones & Jonathan I. Bisson


Background: Sleep disturbance has been described as a ‘hallmark’ symptom of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although there are robust findings of self-reported sleep disturbance in PTSD, evidence of sleep disturbance measured using actigraphy is less certain.

Objective: To conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis to determine whether there are any significant differences between individuals with and without PTSD in actigraph-derived sleep measures.

Method: Case-control studies comparing participants with current PTSD to those without PTSD were eligible for inclusion. Sleep parameters of interest were: (1) total sleep time; (2) sleep onset latency; (3) wake after sleep onset (WASO); and (4) sleep efficiency. Data were meta-analysed as standardised mean differences (SMDs) and potential sources of heterogeneity were explored through meta-regression. Six actigraphy studies with 405 participants were included.

Results: There was no evidence of a statistically significant difference between those with and without PTSD in total sleep time (SMD 0.09, 95%CI -0.23 to 0.42); WASO (SMD 0.18, 95%CI -0.06 to 0.43); sleep latency (SMD 0.32, 95%CI -0.04 to 0.69); or sleep efficiency (SMD -0.28, 95%CI -0.78 to 0.21).

Conclusions: Further high-quality research is required to determine whether there is a true difference in sleep between those with and without PTSD.

Keywords: Sleep; PTSD; Actigraphy; Systematic review; Meta Analysis

Received 03 Oct 2019, Accepted 23 Apr 2020, Published online: 09 Jul 2020

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