Iowa Sleep Blog

Sleep Problems for Veterans

Monday, May 25, 2015

Sleep is a critical way for the body to relieve stress, relax and rejuvenate. For many, sleep problems prevent a restful night’s sleep. While we commonly focus on sleep problems in older adults, children and those who have another comorbid disease such as high blood pressure and obesity, there’s another group that frequently experiences troubles sleeping: veterans.

In a survey conducted by VetAdvisor and a sleep expert at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, 76 percent of veterans reported that they do not get enough sleep. Additionally, 91 percent reported feeling tired or sleepy during the day. The report revealed causes of the veterans’ sleep troubles including problems falling or staying asleep, poor sleep quality and experiencing late night distractions such as watching TV and not being able to clear their minds from daily concerns, financial worries and family.

Take a moment to learn a little more about each of these sleep problems and what simple steps you can take to potentially improve them.

Trouble falling or staying asleep – Also known as insomnia, having a hard time falling or staying asleep is one of the most common sleep-related problems in the United States. Sleep doctors commonly hear insomnia patients report that they have an anxious mind and can’t stop thinking, which prevents them from being able to relax. Caffeine, alcohol and nicotine can also stimulate insomnia. Try to avoid consuming these beverages too close to bedtime. Those prone to insomnia should also be sure to turn off electronics and dim the lights an hour before their planned bedtime to help increase the production of melatonin, a hormone in the brain that makes you feel tired.

Poor quality sleep – When people don’t feel rested after what they believed to be a full night’s rest or consistently feel tired during the day, it could be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea. OSA is a sleep problem caused when your airways are blocked by soft tissue in the back of the throat. These blocked airways disrupt sleep by causing the sleeper to repeatedly wake up for short periods during the night. Snoring is often a sign of OSA, and smokers and individuals with high blood pressure, diabetes or family members who have OSA are more likely to develop the disorder.

Late night distractions – Thrown-off circadian rhythms and poor sleep habits can also make it harder for someone to sleep well. Simple steps, such as going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, making sure your room is dark and quiet, turning off the TV an hour before bed and completing exercise four hours before you plan to go to sleep can help get your body on a proper sleep schedule and help you feel relaxed and tired when your bedtime approaches. Make sure you allow yourself time for the full 7-9 recommended hours of sleep. However, if you’re used to going to bed very late, don’t drastically change your bedtime right away. Going to bed 15 minutes earlier every night until you’ve reached your desired bedtime will help your body adjust to a new schedule more easily.

There are a number of other symptoms and reasons why veterans are suffering from sleep problems. Learn more in the VetAdvisor full report or by utilizing resources provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Veterans are more likely to keep their sleep problems to themselves. If you know of a veteran or active duty serviceperson here in Des Moines who is experiencing trouble sleeping, encourage them to visit a professional. The doctors at Iowa Sleep can help you achieve a better night’s sleep in no time.