This opportunity is now closed.

Funded PhD Opportunity

Understanding the mechanisms underpinning the relationship between problematic sleep and posttraumatic stress disorder

This project is funded by:

Subject: Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience


The relationship between traumatic experiences and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been well documented in the literature. In recent years, studies have been focusing on the relationship between traumatic exposure and subsequent sleep problems and the role of sleep and sleep disorders in PTSD. For example, in a recent study utilizing a sample of 214 male Australian Vietnam veterans, Baird et al. (2018) found that those with PTSD reported a greater number of sleep-related problems compared to those without PTSD. Research has also shown that although sleep problems are not always resolved following PTSD treatment, PTSD symptoms are often reduced after sleep interventions (Koffel, Khawaja, & Germain, 2016). For example, Tamanna et al. (2014) reported that in a sample of 69 US veterans with a diagnosis of PTSD and obstructive sleep apnea, a sleep intervention improved not just the sleep-related symptoms, but also symptoms of PTSD. Existing research on the mechanisms underlying the relationship between trauma, sleep and PTSD is limited.

The aim of this PhD is to further investigate the relationship between trauma, PTSD and sleep using both primary data collection methods and secondary data analysis.

The study objectives will be to 1) Collect and identify appropriate data for analyses, and 2) determine the psychosocial mechanisms underlying the associations between key variables such as trauma, problematic sleep and PTSD. There will be several empirical studies involving quantitative statistical analysis. The study will seek to identify the specific pathways connecting trauma, PTSD and sleep problems, thus contributing to the literature on the mechanisms underlying these relationships. Network analysis and structural equation modelling will be employed. If appropriate data sources are collected and/ or available via secondary data sources, the investigation will be conducted both cross-sectionally and longitudinally.

This investigation will build the knowledge base on the mechanisms underlying the relationship between trauma, sleep and PTSD and will therefore be informative for the development of interventions and treatments aimed at alleviating both problematic sleep and PTSD.

Baird, T., McLeay, S., Harvey, W., Theal, R., Law, D., O’Sullivan, R, & PTSD Initiative. Sleep disturbances in Australian Vietnam veterans with and without posttraumatic stress disorder. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 14(5), 745-752.

Koffel, E., Khawaja, I. S., & Germain, A. (2016). Sleep disturbances in posttraumatic stress disorder: Updated review and implications for treatment. Psychiatric Annals, 46(3), 173-176.

Tamanna, S., Parker, J. D., Lyons, J., & Ullah, M. I. (2014). The effect of continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) on nightmares in patients with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 10(6), 631-636.

Essential criteria

  • Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC)

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.


This project is funded by:

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University


Completing the MRes provided me with a lot of different skills, particularly in research methods and lab skills.

Michelle Clements Clements - MRes - Life and Health Sciences

Watch Video  

Key dates

Submission deadline
Friday 26 October 2018

Interview Date

Contact supervisor




Other supervisors


Apply Online

Related Funded Opportunities in: Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience ,

MRes in Psychology

Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience

 View Details

Psychology - Mental Health

Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience

 View Details

Psychology - Health and Aging

Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience

 View Details

Psychology - Children, Young People and Schools

Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience

 View Details