YOUR HEALTH: Finding sleep relief for those with PTSD

CEDARHURST, New York – Of the millions of Americans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, many are members of the military, some of whom spent months in harm's way only to find they can't return to normal once they return home from service.

There's an on-going trial of a new medication designed to lessen nightmares and improve sleep for those with PTSD.

For professional photographer Ali Bardeguez, the hours before dark are the best time of the day.

"What we call, photographers call the golden hours."

Nighttime, not so much.

Nightmares are the norm, not the exception.

"If I've got a lot going on, I'll probably have three in a week," said Bardeguez.

Staff Sergeant Bardeguez was an active duty Marine from 2006 until 2011.   During her two extended deployments she worked in avionics, testing and maintaining navigation systems, and witnessed a lot of injuries.

Ali's been back home for seven years and says she still gets edgy out of the blue.

"You drop a pan and you're about to jump out of your skin."

Psychiatrist Polina Shats works with military veterans struggling with PTSD and sleep issues.

"They see a lot of people getting hurt in front of them," said Shats.   "There's trauma. There's sexual trauma and there isn't a lot of time to process what they're going through."

Researchers are now testing a new treatment: a once a day pill dissolved under the tongue before bedtime.
Known by its clinical trial number TNX-102 SL. the drug targets sleep disturbances.

Right now, music helps Ali relax.  So does her service dog Eva.

In fact, Eva is trained to wake Ali when she senses a nightmare starting.   Ali says it's important for those with PTSD to have a lot of options.

"It's not one size fits all," said Bardeguez.   "Something that works for me might not work for you."

The drug is in phase three clinical trial, which is the last phase before the FDA considers it for approval.

TREATMENT:   Effective treatments for PTSD include different types of psychotherapy (talk therapy) or medication.   Trauma-focused psychotherapies are the most highly recommended type of treatment for PTSD. "Trauma-focused" means that the treatment focuses on the memory of the traumatic event or its meaning. These treatments use different techniques to help you process your traumatic experience.   Medications that have been shown to be helpful in treating PTSD symptoms are some of the same medications also used for symptoms of depression and anxiety.  These are antidepressant medications called SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors).  SSRIs and SNRIs affect the level of naturally occurring chemicals in the brain called serotonin and norepinephrine. (Source: https://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/treatment/therapy-med/treatment-ptsd.asp)

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.