Fear learning is critical in the development and maintenance of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, and safety learning and extinction are necessary for recovery. Studies in animal models suggest that sleep disruption, and REM sleep fragmentation in particular, interfere with safety learning and extinction processes, and recently, studies are extending these findings to humans. A discussion of the human literature is presented here, which largely consists of experimental studies in healthy human control subjects. A theoretical model for the relationship between fear learning, sleep disruption, and impaired safety learning and extinction is proposed, which provides an explanatory framework for sleep disruption and its relationship to PTSD. Overall, findings suggest that sleep disruption plays a role in the development and maintenance of PTSD symptoms, and thus presents an important modifiable target in PTSD treatment.