Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

STUDY OBJECTIVES: Intrusive memories of psychological trauma are a core clinical feature of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and in the early period post-trauma may be a potential target for early intervention. Disrupted sleep in the weeks post-trauma is associated with later PTSD. The impact of sleep and intrusive memories immediately post-trauma, and their relation to later PTSD, is unknown. This study assessed the relationship between sleep duration on the first night following a real-life traumatic event and intrusive memories in the subsequent week, and how these might relate to PTSD symptoms at 2 months. METHODS: Patients (n = 87) recruited in the emergency department completed a sleep and intrusive memory diary from the day of their trauma and for the subsequent week, with optional actigraphy. PTSD, anxiety, and depression symptoms were assessed at 1 week and 2 months. RESULTS: A U-shaped relationship was observed between sleep duration on the first night and intrusive memories over the subsequent week: sleeping "too little" or "too much" was associated with more intrusive memories. Individuals who met Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) criteria for PTSD at 2 months had three times more intrusive memories in the first week immediately post-trauma than those who did not (M = 28.20 vs 9.96). Post hoc analysis showed that the absence of intrusive memories in the first week post-trauma was only observed in those who did not meet CAPS criteria for PTSD at 2 months. CONCLUSIONS: Monitoring intrusive memories and sleep in the first week post-trauma, using a simple diary, may help identify individuals more vulnerable to later psychopathology.

Original publication




Conference paper

Publication Date





intrusive memories, mental imagery, posttraumatic stress disorder, single symptom, sleep, trauma