New medicine designed to improve sleep for those with PTSD

 Ali Bardeguez
Ali Bardeguez (WNDU)
Published: Jun. 4, 2018 at 3:16 PM EDT
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Many of the millions of Americans suffering from PTSD served in the military, spending months in harm's way only to find they can’t return to normal once they return home.

A new medication is designed to lessen nightmares and improve sleep for those with PTSD.

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

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,” Ali says.

She was an active duty Marine from 2006 until 2011.

During her two extended deployments she worked in avionics, testing and maintaining navigation systems, and she witnessed a lot of injuries. Ali has 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,” she explains.

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. There’s trauma. There’s sexual trauma, and there isn’t a lot of time to process what they’re going through,” Shats explains.

Researchers are now testing a new treatment. It's a once-a-day pill dissolved under the tongue before bedtime, known by its clinical trial number TNX-102SL. The drug targets sleep disturbances.

Right now, music helps Ali relax, and 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. Something that works for me might not work for you,” Ali says.

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




REPORT: MB #4426

BACKGROUND: PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault. It's normal to have upsetting memories, feel on edge, or have trouble sleeping after this type of event. At first, it may be hard to do normal daily activities, but most people start to feel better after a few weeks or months. If it's been longer than a few months and you're still having symptoms, you may have PTSD. For some people, PTSD symptoms may start later on, or they may come and go over time. There are four types of symptoms of PTSD, but they may not be exactly the same for everyone. The first is reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms). This includes bad memories or nightmares or feeling like you're going through the event again. This is called a flashback. The other three types of symptoms are avoiding situations that remind you of the event, having more negative beliefs and feelings, and feeling keyed up.


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. Some involve visualizing, talking, or thinking about the traumatic memory. Others focus on changing unhelpful beliefs about the trauma. They usually last about eight to 16 sessions. 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.


PTSD AND SLEEP: Some of the reasons why a soldier returning home from active duty may struggle with sleep as the result of active PTSD are remaining on high alert, processing anxiety, or self-medicating. One of the most common problems with PTSD is frequent nightmares. It leads to sleep fragmentation, excessive daytime sleepiness, and, potentially, chronic insomnia and sleep deprivation, which only worsens any underlying emotional problems.