Our military personnel are valued for the sacrifices they make for their country. Whether they are deployed on the ground, in the air, at sea, or simply sitting behind the computer at a command centre, those personnel are serving their country diligently.
Yet, did you ever think about how it might be like to be active in the military? While being in the military is a unique experience, and could even be considered a virtue, these posts usually comes at a cost. Being in the military allows you to have many different experiences at home or even abroad, which could drastically change your personality and behaviour. Harsh living conditions, combat, sleep deprivation, as well as stress and anxiety over their peers or family members are some of the many problems that military personnel face.
So are Military Personnel Really Prone to Sleep Disorders?
If you are asking yourself if military personnel are prone to sleep disorders, the answer is yes. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 85% of active duty military members have been diagnosed with a sleep disorder. In fact, 39% of the Navy and 42% of Marine Corps claim they often do not manage to get sufficient or any sleep at all, which affects their ability to perform at work.
Unfortunately, our military personnel and veterans are not getting enough sleep or suffering from some sort of sleep disorder. But what exactly keeps them up at night?
Insomnia is something that affects people who are employed in the military. Those who are deployed to deal with situations that involve combat in particular are the ones who suffer from this. Many factors contribute to insomnia, such as combat exposure, the inability to have regular sleeping patterns, and adjustment to the return home. When deployment-related insomnia is not treated immediately, it can become a major risk factor for the development of PTSD, depression, and suicide.
2. Sleep Apnea
Another common sleep disorder among veterans is sleep apnea. It is a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted during his/her sleep. Sleep apnea should not be left untreated.
According to Max Hirshkowitz, director of the Sleep Disorder Centre at the Houston Veterans Affairs Medical Centre, veterans are four times more likely than other Americans to suffer from sleep apnea.
3. Nightmares and Night Terrors
Many stressors can cause nightmares and night terrors for military personnel, including combat and traumatic incidents that they experience at home or abroad during the time of their deployment.
The difference between a nightmare and a night terror is that a person usually remembers the content of the nightmare the next day, whereas a person who suffers a night terror will seem awake and inconsolable during an episode, but will have no memory of it the next day.
Nightmares and night terrors are not only traumatic to the person suffering from them, but they can also be very frightening to their family and pose a threat to their well-being.
4. Restless Legs Syndrome
Another common sleep disorder among military personnel is restless legs syndrome, which has been reported several times among them. This syndrome, in some cases, is so severe as to be deemed a contributor to disability.
With this disorder, one’s begins to develop uncomfortable sensations and an urgent need to move his/her legs at or near bedtime. You begin to experience feelings of itchiness or other uncomfortable feelings which urges you to keep moving your legs. This makes it difficult to fall asleep.
5. Sleep Paralysis
Another terrifying sleep disorder that can happen due to traumas among combat soldiers is sleep paralysis. Sleep paralysis occurs when a person suddenly finds themselves unable to move for a few minutes, most often upon falling asleep or waking up.
Sleep paralysis is tarrying because you may be awake and alert but unable to move your own arms or legs, which can cause you to panic. Research suggests that about 85% of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) patients experience sleep paralysis, while in the general population, the rate of frequency is only as high as 40%.
Sleep disorders can make us very uncomfortable, and could even sometimes be life-threatening. In the military, several studies are constantly proving a high prevalence of sleep disorders and surprisingly high rates of irregular or short sleep duration’s among the military personnel.
With those studies, there is an imminent need to change the culture around sleep practices in the military, and an equal need for new strategies in order to help soldiers feel more rested and less prone to psychological and sleep disorders.