Sleep Disorders in the Military

Those fighting for our country battle not only enemies, but countless amounts of medical and mental issues. In the military, sleep is not as great a luxury as it is for those not serving due to certain missions spanning for days at a time. A lack of sleep in soldiers has taken interest in experts interested in sleep disorders, and the results speak for themselves.

Getting a proper night’s sleep seems to be the cure to many life dilemmas, however those serving most likely do not have control over their sleep schedule. Army Col. Dr. Vincent Mysliwiec conducted a study which concluded a great deal of sleep disorders among active military. As obvious as it may seem, the lack of a complete sleep cycle highly increases the probability of injuries, errors, and accidents. David Vergun blogged on Real Clear Defence about Dr. Mysliwiec’s findings and how he discovered most soldiers sleep less than 6 hours, when the average adult should at least be getting 7-8 hours. This unstable sleep cycle can inevitably ruin a person’s biological clock, likely leading to a sleep disorder.

The same study found that 85% of test subjects had a “clinically relevant sleep disorder.” The American Academy of Sleep Medicine also took a look into Mysliwiec’s study and elaborated that due to the conclusion of the study, a change in military culture regarding sleep should be considered. Often times, soldiers engage in one-hour rotations when they are on a “watch” duty type mission. This pattern is often more damaging to a sleep cycle than staying up for a full day. Interrupted sleep has a greater impact on a foundation for developing a sleep disorder than long periods without sleep cause. Allowing significant time to catch up on sleep following a lengthy mission is highly encouraged by doctors, as a rested mind is less likely to create harmful scenarios for the military personnel.

An even more appealing case advocating for those serving and needing more sleep is the repercussions of having a sleep disorder. Those with insomnia during their time serving are more likely to suffer from PTSD than those not incurring a sleep disorder. After returning home from a tour, many claim that the inability to sleep is due to constantly being on high alert during their deployment. The ability to break the habit of constantly being vigilant is the most difficult part of returning home, according to an article on Task & Purpose. A huge concern is the lack of resources that exist to help those suffering. Medication is always available, but unless veteran status is achieved, those returning to combat are not likely to take up a medicinal solution.

Being a part of the military presents scenarios and challenges that everyday citizens will likely never face. Many times, sleep is low on a list of priorities during an intense mission or task, however the recovery afterwards is vital in order for soldiers to regiment a healthy sleep cycle.