Sleep disorders common in active duty military personnel

By Lucy Piper, Senior medwireNews Reporter

Researchers have found significant associations between service-related illnesses and a high rate of sleep disorders, particularly insomnia, in US military personnel.

They also note that almost half of the study participants reported a short sleep duration of 5 hours or less per night.

"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 principal investigator Vincent Mysliwiec (Madigan Healthcare System in Tacoma, Washington, USA) in a press statement.

The researchers highlight in SLEEP that, "for military personnel, performance without sufficient sleep may have devastating consequences, affecting both the individual and the unit's overall mission."

In 725 military personnel, aged an average 35.5 years, referred for diagnostic polysomnogram, mild obstructive sleep apnea (OSA; apnea hypopnea index of more than 5 events/hour) was the most common diagnosis, at 27.2%. This was followed by insomnia (24.7%), moderate-to-severe OSA (24.0%), and paradoxical insomnia (5.1%).

The results also showed that 85.2% of participants had been deployed and medical comorbidities were common, with 58.1% having one or more service-related illnesses. The most common comorbidities were depression (22.6%), anxiety (16.8%), post-traumatic stress disorder (13.2%), and mild traumatic brain injury (12.8%), and nearly 25% were taking pain medication.

PTSD, depression, and pain syndromes were all significantly associated with insomnia, increasing the risk for the sleep disorder twofold, 1.5-fold, and 1.5-fold, respectively.

In a related commentary, Nita Lewis Shattuck and Stephanie Brown, from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, USA, say that the current findings "highlight the need for policy and culture change in our military organizations and continued research to understand the and ameliorate the injuries that these veterans have sustained."

They add: "Better appreciation of the causal factors associated with veteran's health will lead to better policies for transition to civilian life and ultimately minimize the cost of veteran's health care to society."

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