Exposure therapy is theorized to reduce posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptomatology by promoting habituation/extinction of fear responses to trauma-related cues. Empirical evidence indicates that emotional memory, including habituation/extinction learning, is enhanced by sleep. However, service members with combat-related PTSD often report disturbed sleep. In this study, quality of sleep and indicators of extinction learning were examined in veterans of recent wars who had completed an exposure-based PTSD intervention. Fifty-five participants were categorized into two groups based on self-reported quality of sleep: low sleep disruption severity (LSDS; N = 29) and high sleep disruption severity (HSDS; N = 26). Participants in the LSDS group exhibited faster habituation to their traumatic memories and reported less PTSD symptomatology during and following treatment relative to participants in the HSDS group. These findings indicate that individuals with combat-related PTSD reporting less disturbed sleep experience greater extinction learning during exposure therapy. Thus, incorporating interventions that target PTSD-related sleep disturbances may be one way to maximize exposure therapy outcomes in service members with PTSD.
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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
College of Sciences
Psychology; Clinical Psychology
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)
Mesa, Franklin, "Role of Sleep in Exposure Therapy for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in OIF/OEF Combat Veterans" (2016). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 5219.
Restricted to the UCF community until August 2021; it will then be open access.