Her car is racing at a terrifying speed through the streets of a large city, and something with giant eyeballs is chasing her, closing in fast. It was a dream, of course, and after Emily Gurule, a 50-year-old high school teacher, related it to Dr Barry Krakow, he simply told her to think of a new one. “In your mind, with thinking and picturing, take a few minutes, close your eyes, and I want you to change the dream any way you wish,” said Dr Krakow, founder of the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Sleep Clinic at the Maimonides Sleep Arts and Sciences centre in New Mexico, US, and a leading researcher of nightmares.
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A retrospective study of 1,078 adults with PTSD treated at a sleep center documented round-the-clock sleep/wake disturbances. The higher their PTSD symptom scores, the more apt they were to report bedtime worries about losing sleep, racing thoughts, watching the clock, and restless legs syndrome. The same people reported trouble falling asleep, night waking, nightmares, periodic limb movements, and poor sleep. In the daytime, they had more trouble with memory and concentration, felt sleepier and more fatigued, and reported lower quality of life than those with lower PTSD scores. The severity of their symptoms was correlated with sleep factors that promote excess arousal, Barry Krakow, M.D., and colleagues at Maimonides Sleep Arts and Sciences in Albuquerque, N.M., reported at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in June. Changes in the brain during sleep in people with PTSD may maintain or increase activity in arousal-promoting brain centers and reduce activity in sleep-promoting centers, Anne Germain, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, told Psychiatric News.
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