Categories: Sleep Disorders

Veterans and Sleep

Veterans sacrifice much in service to their country. They give up time with friends and family, in support of their country. They also work long hours in many rough locations. And, they do it all without complaint. They do these things to serve our grateful nation, and to defend our freedom.

If you or someone you love is a veteran, you know that coming home after service, whether it was 20 years ago, or 5 days ago, can bring with it sleep challenges. One study, conducted by Vet Advisor and John Hopkins Medicine, reveals that the “vast majority” of veterans experience relatively severe sleep deprivation.

How widespread is the problem? Significant enough that 86% of veterans reported willingness to wear sleep tracking products that would share sleep data to help improve their sleep. Many factors contribute to difficulty sleeping among veterans returning home, including post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Unfortunately, sleep deprivation may lead to various additional physical health and mental wellness issues.

Sleep Challenges For Veterans

Those diagnosed with PTSD may experience frequent and severe occurrences of insomnia upon returning home. This insomnia may occur due to any of the following reasons:

  • Nightmares
  • Fears of going to sleep
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Negative thoughts
  • Continuous mental alertness (simply being unable to relax enough to fall asleep)

While PTSD is a common reason for insomnia among veterans, it isn’t the only reason. There are many additional causes of insomnia for veterans, such as:

  • Pain related to injuries. If injured during service, pain may prevent them from falling asleep. It can also wake them up in the middle of the night, making it difficult to return to sleep.
  • Shifted sleep schedules. This one is especially common among veterans returning home after active service overseas. Their bodies and minds have adjusted to different sleep schedules. It may take their circadian rhythm a while to make the transition back.
  • Alertness. Veteran’s minds and bodies have been on high alert for months at a time. Even if they haven’t been diagnosed with PTSD, it may take a while for them to relax enough to permit sleep.
  • Night terrors. Whether they have PTSD or not, they have been at war, and they have seen things that are difficult. During daytime hours when their mind is active, it is manageable. But at night, they return in their dreams – sometimes making sleep difficult.
  • PTSD-related symptoms. As if PTSD weren’t enough to keep veterans up at night, there are a few side effects of the condition that may disrupt their sleep as well, including: restless leg syndrome (RLS), parasomnia and more.

Sleep impacts every aspect of your life, including how you relate to others and how you perform your job and/or learn new skills. Chronic sleep deprivation can cause personal relationships to suffer, job performance to decline, and rob you of your ability to fight off illnesses and infections as well.

It is possible for veterans to get the help they need to get the good night’s sleep they deserve. It may take some time to adapt, but little by little, the insomnia will lessen.

Getting the Sleep You Need After Military Service

Now that you’ve returned home, it’s time to shift your focus toward healing. Improving sleep quality and quantity must be priorities for you. It’s often best to start with basics that include the following:

  • Establish strict schedules for going to sleep and waking up. Keep them consistent even on weekends.
  • Remove all potential distractions from the bedroom. This includes fitness equipment, televisions, cellphones, computers, etc. Make your bedroom a sanctuary for sleep.
  • Make your bedroom comfortable. Cool and dark are ideal, but it should also be clutter free, and your bed should be comfortable.
  • Develop a nightly routine before going to bed. This can help to trigger your brain into identifying these routines with sleep, and winding down for the day. Try meditation, a warm bath, chamomile tea or listening to soft music.

If these things don’t provide you with marked improvements in sleep, it’s time to consider more drastic steps to improve your sleep. One of the first things you should consider is consulting with your physician. He or she may be able to recommend other treatments to address your sleep challenges.

The important thing for you to know is that you are not alone. Just as your fellow soldiers supported you during times of service, dedicated physicians, friends, and family members can help, now that you are home. Getting help to solve your sleep challenges may take time. However, the first step will always be to make it a priority. Once you’ve tried the things mentioned above, and talked to your physician, you should be well on your way.

We here at PlushBeds would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your service, and wish you many comfortable nights of sleep ahead.

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    Amber Merton

    Amber Merton is an accomplished writer on the topics of green living and sleep. Her work has been covered in numerous online publications. Amber has been a regular author on the PlushBeds blog for the past 7 years.

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