Sleeping While Stressed: Sleep Habits of Military Families

military family

With Veteran’s Day passing yesterday, it’s interesting and helpful to discuss the difficulties servicemen and their families can have in completing everyday tasks that most of us don’t even think twice about. One of the basic needs of all humans is sleep, but for those who are under stress or have been through a traumatic event in the military, sleep isn’t always easy to come by. We’ve talked about the effects of PTSD on sleep, but let’s talk about how soldiers and the families of soldiers can get sleep despite their very stressful and unique lifestyle.

According to a recent study, 1 in 5 military service persons returning from war suffer from some form of sleep disorder. Insomnia together with post-deployment adjustment disorders among returning war veterans is as severe as patients suffering from chronic insomnia, according to a research conducted and presented at the Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS). The study, authored by Colleen Walsh, of the University of Pittsburgh, focused on a sample of 14 veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) with post-deployment adjustment disorders, whose data were compared to that of 14 insomnia patients and 14 good sleepers, both groups of which were free of medical and psychiatric disorders.

cant sleep

Returning Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans suffered from significantly more severe disruptive night time behaviors, such as nightmares and body movements, than both patients with insomnia and good sleepers. Insomnia complaints in returning veterans were as severe as complaints endorsed by insomnia patients. Sleep quality was significantly worse in veterans than in good sleepers.

“These findings highlight the urgent need for sleep-focused assessments and treatments in this new group of combat-exposed military veterans,” said Anne Germain, Ph.D., the principal investigator of the study.

It is recommended that adults get between seven and eight hours of nightly sleep. Whether you’re a servicemen or a family member, here are some helpful tips to getting a good night sleep:

Follow a consistent bedtime routine.

Establish a relaxing setting at bedtime.

Get a full night’s sleep every night.

Avoid foods or drinks that contain caffeine, as well as any medicine that has a stimulant, prior to bedtime.

Do not bring your worries to bed with you.

Do not go to bed hungry, but don’t eat a big meal before bedtime either. It’s important to skip junk food and late night snacking.

Avoid any rigorous exercise within six hours of your bedtime.

Make your bedroom quiet, dark and a little bit cool.

Make sure you’re sleeping on a comfortable bed with an all natural latex mattress.

It’s important to remember that while you and your family may feel alone in the fight, you’re not. Millions of Americans are dealing with insomnia and over 20% of servicemen are dealing with it too. There are many support groups and help centers that can assist you and your family in this trying time. No problem is too big or too small to talk about.

If you’re not a veteran, make sure to thank the ones you know, not only on Veteran’s Day, but everyday, for keeping us safe and letting us sleep comfortably in our own beds with the ones we love every night.

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