Purpose of reviewThe human circadian system creates and maintains cellular and systemic rhythmicity essential to homeostasis. Loss of circadian rhythmicity fundamentally affects the neuroendocrine, immune and autonomic system, similar to chronic stress and, thus, may play a central role in the development of stress-related disorders. This article focuses on the role of circadian misalignment in the pathophysiology of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Recent findingsSleep disruption is a core feature of PTSD supporting the important supraordinate pathophysiological role of circadian system in PTSD. Furthermore, direct and indirect human and animal PTSD research suggests circadian system linked neuroendocrine, immune, metabolic and autonomic dysregulation with blunted diurnal rhythms, specific sleep pattern pathologies and cognitive deficits, as well as endocannabinoid and neuropeptide Y system alterations and altered circadian gene expression, linking circadian misalignment to PTSD pathophysiology.
SummaryPTSD development is associated with chronodisruption findings. Evaluation and treatment of sleep and circadian disruption should be the first steps in PTSD management. State-of-the-art methods of circadian rhythm assessment should be applied to bridge the gap between clinical significance and limited understanding of the relationship between traumatic stress, sleep and circadian system.