Friday, September 27, 2013

New Study Uncovers Extraordinary Prevalence of Sleep Disorders Among Veterans

Written by Anthony Hardie,

( - Sep. 27, 2013) - A new survey of sleep issues among a representative cross-section of combat and non-combat U.S. military veterans has uncovered an extremely high prevalence of chronic insomnia, with significant negative impact on the veterans' during their waking hours.  The survey found that more than three-quarters of veterans don't get enough enough sleep due to an extraordinarily high prevalence of sleep disorders, but these disorders may be amendable to treatment. 

The purpose of the survey, conducted by a partnership of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine's Center of Behavior and Health and VetAdvisor®, LLC was, "to help researchers understand the causes of veteran sleep disorders, enhance overall understanding of these disorders, and determine the potential benefits of behavioral sleep coaching and consumer sleep monitoring devices in their treatment."

Among the survey's important findings:

  • The average amount of veteran participant sleep was 5.6 hours. 
  • 76% of veterans report that they do not typically get enough sleep. 
  • Even more alarming, 91% of the veterans surveyed reported often feeling tired, fatigued or sleepy during the day. 
  • “Having trouble falling or staying asleep” was by far the most frequent reason cited by veterans as a cause of not getting enough sleep (70%). 
  • Other common reasons included: “sleep is poor quality” (53%), “being too busy with work or family responsibilities” (13%), “being a night owl” (12%), and “liking to watch television late at night” (8%).
Perhaps most significantly, according to the survey, "74.3% of respondents reported meeting general clinical criteria for insomnia (i.e., trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, 3 or more nights per week for at least a month with at least some significant sleep-related daytime symptoms)."  

This rate of insomnia is much greater than in the non-veteran population, where the surveyors report that, in the general population, the prevalence of chronic insomnia is 10-15%."

And according to the survey, "veterans who had actively engaged in combat were also more likely to report insomnia than those who had not actively engaged in combat (78.7% vs. 69.2%)."  "Factors associated with trauma such as nightmares or feeling the need to be “on guard” were much higher in the active combat engagement group."

For those actively engaged in combat (53% of those surveyed), the top 3 reasons for difficulty falling or staying asleep were:

  1. Mental alertness/thoughts won’t slow down (15.7%)
  2. Pain (12.2%)
  3. Nightmares/dreams (10.7%)

For those not engaging in combat (47% of those surveyed), the top three reasons were: 

  1. Pain (18.7%), 
  2. Mental alertness/thoughts won’t slow down (15.3%)
  3. Worrying about daily concerns (6.9%).
The representative survey included almost 3,000 volunteers -- all U.S. military veterans -- ranging from age 18 to 96.  Diversity by race, sex, and military branch of service was generally reflective of veteran population demographics.  About 72 percent were combat zone veterans, with about 53 percent reporting combat experiences.

For more information, read the full report

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