How Are Our Soldiers Sleeping?

Sleep apnea and insomnia among military personnel occurring at high rates

(RxWiki News) Military service can be brutal on a person's body. But it may be even more brutal on a person's sleep. Insomnia, sleep apnea and too little sleep appear common among military personnel.

Those are the findings of a recent study looking at the sleep study results of soldiers. Over half of the soldiers involved had at least two sleeping problems, such as sleep apnea or insomnia.

A little under half were getting less than five hours of sleep a night. Yet most these men and women were deployed.

"You need 6 to 8 hours of sleep every night."

The study, led by Vincent Mysliwiec, MD, of Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington, looked at the sleeping habits and disorders among active duty military members.

The researchers looked at study results and medical records of 725 men and women who were involved in a sleeping study in 2010.

The researchers also looked at diagnoses for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), anxiety, depression and chronic pain.

The researchers found that 42 percent of the military personnel were getting less than five hours of sleep each night, and there were relatively high levels of various sleeping disorders among them.

The researchers found that 207 military members, or 27 percent of the study group, had mild obstructive sleep apnea, and 183 (24 percent) had moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea.

A quarter (207 members) also had insomnia, and 5 percent had paradoxical insomnia, a disorder in which a person feels like they have insomnia even though they appear to be sleeping without any problems.

Behaviorally induced insufficient sleep syndrome occurred among 9 percent of the personnel – which basically means they regularly did not get enough sleep each night. Snoring occurred among 5 percent of the personnel.

Among these men and women, 85 percent deployed overseas, even though over half (58 percent) had at least two sleeping problems.

Those with PTSD were a little more than twice as likely to experience insomnia, and those with pain issues were almost 50 percent more likely to have insomnia.

The researchers concluded that sleeping disorders related to the men and women's service were prevalent among the personnel who underwent sleep studies, especially if they had pain symptoms or PTSD.

The implications of this important study are concerning, according to William Kohler, MD, the director of the Florida Sleep Institute in Spring Hill, Florida, and a dailyRx expert.

"The bottom line is that adequate quality and quantity of sleep is necessary for maximal functioning," Dr. Kohler said. "Unfortunately not getting those things can result in poor performance, including some of the problems that the military has experienced with people being over aggressive, killing civilians, showing poor judgment – all the potentially associated with poor quality or quantity of sleep."

He said this article points out how significant the percentage of sleep problems in these military personnel are.

"It's imperative that adequate sleep be obtained by all of us, particularly people in responsible positions as in the military, who have to make judgments quickly," Dr. Kohler said. "If sleep is not adequate, the judgment is going to be impaired."

The study was published in the February issue of the journal Sleep. The research was funded by the Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
February 13, 2013