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The relationship between post-trauma stress and poor sleep after a heart attack

Mar 20, 2024

Experiencing a severe heart event such as a heart attack or cardiac arrest, can be traumatic and leave people feeling anxious, stressed, and depressed after discharge from hospital. Mental ill-health makes it worse for someone to recover after a heart event especially if they have limited support to help them in their recovery so many aspects of their life suffer as a result.

One study found that 1 in 8 people experience post-trauma stress after a heart attack and those with post-trauma stress have double the risk of having another cardiac event within 1-3 years compared to survivors of those without post-trauma stress.

It’s been known for some time that poor sleep may be involved in increasing the risk of further cardiac events or death especially amongst those experiencing post-trauma stress following a serious heart event.

Symptoms of post-trauma stress include dysregulation of the nervous system which triggers nightmares and disrupted sleep patterns, as well as affecting breathing, heart rhythms, digestion.

The association between post-trauma stress and sleep after a heart event was studied by Shaffer, et. al. (2013) who found that experiencing post-trauma stress following a heart attack was associated with poor sleep.  

Shaffer, et. al. (2013) found that with increased post-trauma stress symptoms, the poorer quality of sleep was. For example, participants had shorter sleep duration, more sleep disturbances, use of sleeping medications, and daytime dysfunction due to poor sleep the night before. 


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