Healthy Living

US Military Personnel Are More At Risk for Sleep Disorders

US Military Personnel Are More At Risk for Sleep Disorders

Anyone can be affected by a sleep disorder, including those who fight for their country. Military personnel are actually more prone to develop one, even after they come home. This makes it a definite need for change toward making sleep and testing for sleep disorders a priority in the military.

“While sleep deprivation is part of the military culture, the high prevalence of short sleep duration in military personnel with sleep disorders was surprising,” said Vincent Mysliwiec, MD, the study’s principal investigator, lead author and chief of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, WA. “The potential risk of increased accidents as well as long-term clinical consequences of both short sleep duration and a sleep disorder in our population is unknown.”

Yes, sleep schedules do vary, but most adults and especially those who work hard and are under a great deal of stress, need at least seven to eight hours of continuous sleep.

Results of a sleep study in military personnel

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine study, approximately 58.1 percent of military personnel had more than one disorder at the same time. These conditions are related to sleep deprivation. For example, depression was at 22.6 percent, anxiety at 16.8 percent, post-traumatic stress disorder 13.2 percent and mild brain injury at 12.8 percent.  Almost 25 percent took medications for pain and those with PTSD were two times more likely to have insomnia.

Sleep apnea and insomnia on the front lines of war

Insomnia and sleep apnea are the most common sleep disorders among U.S. soldiers. A study conducted by the Madigan Health Care System looked into the types of sleep disorders prevalent among active-duty members of the military and determined the average number of hours of sleep soldiers with these disorders had every night.

In the study, 726 soldiers, mostly men, had a sleep disorder while a similar number in a control group had no sleep disorders. The study found that the soldiers with sleep disorders included 27.2 percent with mild obstructive sleep apnea, 24 percent had insomnia, and 24 percent had moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea.

These figures reveal that over half of the soldiers in the military with sleep disorders suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.

It is recommended that the military provided some form of sleep apnea treatment to help improve the overall well-being of the military. Perhaps a need for a cultural change is needed toward sleep practices in the military, and there are currently more studies on the way. 

Further research found that the amount the soldiers spend sleeping each night is about 5.74 hours, which is far below the recommended amount of seven to nine hours (The National Sleep Foundation recommendation). A lack of proper and long sleep causes health and mental problems, plus a lack of judgment.

The researchers wrote that the “study provides a unique insight into the growing body of evidence linking sleep disorders, and more specifically, insomnia and service-related illnesses that frequently occur in military personnel who have deployed in Overseas Contingency Operations.”