Sleep and day-to-day trauma symptom variability


Approximately 70% of the population is exposed to a traumatic experience during their lifetime. However, only 4% of the population go on to develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Sleep is a critical process linked to mental and physical restoration across numerous systems (Cox & Olatunji, 2016) and approximately 70% of people with PTSD also have co-occurring sleep problems (Ohayon & Shapiro, 2000). The relationship between sleep and PTSD is bidirectional, with sleep problems increasing the risk of PTSD, and PTSD increasing the risk of sleep difficulties. This study aims to investigate the link between sleep and PTSD in a university student population.

Research Questions / Hypotheses

1) What is the relationship between PTSD symptoms and sleep in undergraduate students? 2) Are there any factors potentially moderating the relationship found in Aim 1? 3) Is there a difference between non-trauma exposed, trauma exposed, and individuals with PTSD with regards to sleep? It is expected that there will be a significant linear relationship between PTSD symptoms and sleep. Further, it is expected that dimensional analysis between PTSD score and sleep score will reveal a significant relationship.


The final sample included 720 participants (557 female, 163 male, aged 16-66 years; M = 19.82, SD = 4.56).


Participants anonymously completed a 30-minute online survey consisting of a battery of questionnaires: PTSD Checklist for DSM-5, Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire, Epworth Sleepiness Scale, Insomnia Severity Index, DASS-21, Audit Alcohol Screening Tool, and Positive and Negative Affect Schedule.


40% of the total sample responded with no prior traumatic experiences, 15% with one, 23% with two, 11% responded with three, 7% with four, 3% with five and 1% with six traumatic experiences. Further examination of the PCL-5 revealed that 29% have probable PTSD (PCL-5 cut-off score: 33). Finally, participants had a mean global PSQI score of 6.57 (SD = 3.23), which is above the cut-off score of 5 indicating reduced sleep quality across the sample.


Final results and implications are pending. Results will be communicated through Honours and PhD theses.