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Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Behav. Neurosci., 10 June 2014 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00209

Improvement of mood and sleep alterations in posttraumatic stress disorder patients by eye movement desensitization and reprocessing

  • 1Group of Studies on the Neurobiology of Stress and Stress-Related Disorders, Departamento de Psicobiologia, Universidade Federal de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil
  • 2Instituto do Sono, Associação Fundo de Incentivo à Pesquisa, São Paulo, Brazil
  • 3Sleep Division, Departamento de Psicobiologia, Universidade Federal de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) patients exhibit depressive and anxiety symptoms, in addition to nightmares, which interfere with sleep continuity. Pharmacologic treatment of these sleep problems improves PTSD symptoms, but very few studies have used psychotherapeutic interventions to treat PTSD and examined their effects on sleep quality. Therefore, in the present study, we sought to investigate the effects of Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing therapy on indices of mood, anxiety, subjective, and objective sleep. The sample was composed of 11 healthy controls and 13 PTSD patients that were victims of assault and/or kidnapping. All participants were assessed before, and 1 day after, the end of treatment for depressive and anxiety profile, general well-being and subjective sleep by filling out specific questionnaires. In addition, objective sleep patterns were evaluated by polysomnographic recording. Healthy volunteers were submitted to the therapy for three weekly sessions, whereas PTSD patients underwent five sessions, on average. Before treatment, PTSD patients exhibited high levels of anxiety and depression, poor quality of life and poor sleep, assessed both subjectively and objectively; the latter was reflected by increased time of waking after sleep onset. After completion of treatment, patients exhibited improvement in depression and anxiety symptoms, and in quality of life; with indices that were no longer different from control volunteers. Moreover, these patients showed more consolidated sleep, with reduction of time spent awake after sleep onset. In conclusion, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing was an effective treatment of PTSD patients and improved the associated sleep and psychological symptoms.

Keywords: Posttraumatic stress disorder, EMDR, psychotherapy, depression, anxiety, sleep fragmentation

Citation: Raboni MR, Alonso FFD, Tufik S and Suchecki D (2014) Improvement of mood and sleep alterations in posttraumatic stress disorder patients by eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. Front. Behav. Neurosci. 8:209. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00209

Received: 03 April 2014; Accepted: 22 May 2014;
Published online: 10 June 2014.

Edited by:

Francesca Cirulli, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Italy

Reviewed by:

Thomas Fenzl, University of Innsbruck, Austria
Fiona Hollis, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland

Copyright © 2014 Raboni, Alonso, Tufik and Suchecki. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Deborah Suchecki, Departamento de Psicobiologia, Universidade Federal de São Paulo, Rua Napoleão de Barros, 925, Vila Clementino – São Paulo, 04024-002, Brazil e-mail: deborah.suchecki@gmail.com