Sleep is an essential part of a person’s wellbeing. However, many veterans are not getting the sleep they need. Recent research shows sleep disorders have increased six-fold among former service members over the past decade.
The largest rise in sleep problems has been linked with patients who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), combat experience or other mental disorders. The same period between 2000 and 2010 has seen PTSD diagnoses triple. University of South Carolina researchers noted the prevalence of sleep disorders among 16 percent of veterans with PTSD. The number is the highest among all health conditions considered.
However the study’s senior author and associate professor Dr. James Burch said in a statement, “Because of the way this study was designed, this does not prove that PTSD caused the increase in sleep disorder diagnoses.” His team conducted subsequent research to study the connection between the two. It found that a history of PTSD was associated with higher chances of experiencing sleep problems.
Former service members with cancer, cardiovascular disease and other chronic health problems also had higher rates of sleep disorder diagnoses in comparison to those without such conditions. Sleep apnea and insomnia were the top two most common types of sleeping problems veterans experienced respectively.
The study examined the medical data of around 9.7 million veterans who sought care in the Department of Veterans Affairs health system. The findings were published in the journal Sleep in July.
The prevalence of sleep disorders among veterans is a cause for concern. It indicates the need for sleep disorder management and treatment to be integrated into health care services and caregiving for veterans.