This new retrospective cross-sectional cohort analysis was conducted at Madigan Army Medical Center led Dr. Vincent Mysliwiec, MD, Chief of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at Madigan Army Medical Center, principal investigator and lead author of study examined 725 diagnostic polysomnograms (sleep test) conducted in 2010 at Madigan Army Medical Center.
Participants in the study were active military personnel (93.2% men) from the U.S. Army, Air Force and Navy and combat veterans (85.2%). Sleep disorder diagnosis were determined by a board certified sleep medicine physician. Demographic characteristics and conditions of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), anxiety, depression, and pain syndromes determined by medical record review.
The study revealed 58.1% of military personnel had one or more medical comorbidities (the presence of one or more disorders (or diseases) in addition to a primary disease or disorder, or the effect of such additional disorders or diseases) as determined by medical record review.
Primary sleep diagnosis included mild obstructive sleep apnea or OSA, (27.2%), insomnia (24.7%), moderate to severe OSA (24.0%), paradoxical insomnia or a compliant of severe insomnia (5.1%), behaviorally induced insufficient sleep syndrome that occurs when we fail to get enough sleep on a night to night basis (8.9%) and snoring (5.3%).
The most common service related illnesses were as follows; depression (22.6%), anxiety (16.8%), post-traumatic stress disorder (13.2%), and mild traumatic brain injury (12.8%).
Among military personnel almost 25% were taking pain medications.
The study also revealed those with PTSD were twice as likely to have insomnia and those with depression or pain syndrome were 1.5 times more likely to have insomnia.
Participants' mean self-reported home sleep duration was only 5.74 hours per night, and 41.8 percent reported sleeping five hours or less per night.
In their conclusion the researchers write; “Service-related illnesses are prevalent in military personnel who undergo polysomnography with significant associations between PTSD, pain syndromes, and insomnia. Despite having sleep disorders, almost half reported short sleep duration. Multidisciplinary assessment and treatment of military personnel with sleep disorders and service-related illnesses are required.”
Dr. Mysliwiec stated "While sleep deprivation is part of the military culture, the high prevalence of short sleep duration in military personnel with sleep disorders was surprising.” He adds "The potential risk of increased accidents as well as long-term clinical consequences of both short sleep duration and a sleep disorder in our population is unknown."
Dr. Nita Lewis Shattuck, PhD, Associate Professor and co-director of the Human Systems Integration Program at the Naval Postgraduate School and and Stephanie A.T. Brown, MS, postgraduate students at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, write in their commentary of the study, "Their findings highlight the need for policy and culture change in our military organizations and continued research to understand and ameliorate the injuries these veterans have sustained. 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 veterans' health care to society."
The study appears in the February issue of the journal Sleep.
A 2010, study which also appeared in the journal Sleep, found that military personnel deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan reported having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep than those who had not yet been deployed.
The study led by Amber D. Seelig, data analyst for the Department of Deployment Health Research at the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego, California, among 41,225 military service personnel, had found participants were more than two times more likely to report trouble sleeping if they had baseline symptoms of mental health problems such as posttraumatic stress disorder or depression, or if they rated their general health as only fair/poor.
That study suggested that the promotion of healthier sleep patterns may be beneficial for military service members.
Over 500,000 U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001 suffer from PTS.