More than half of the National Guardsmen in a recent survey reported problems sleeping following a deployment. Researchers asked 928 Guardsmen in Hawaii and New Mexico about their sleep patterns following deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia or other war zones.
The results, which were published online in Sleep Health and reported on by Reuters, showed that the affected Guardsmen had trouble falling or staying asleep. They also experienced irritability or anger after troubled bouts of sleep.
The sleeping issues mean the service members are more prone to have mental-health problems, said Martha Lincoln, the study’s lead author who works at San Francisco State University.
“We hope the impact of this research will be to add to the evidence base for military intervention and health policy so there can be upstream awareness of how insomnia is affecting people,” she told Reuters.
Many soldiers said they felt vulnerable after returning home. Five said they slept with a gun under their pillow or elsewhere in their bed. One slept on the couch because he felt the need to guard the house.
Some service members used alcohol to help them fall asleep. Others sought over-the-counter medicines, such as cold medicine, to help them nod off. Some used prescription sleeping aids.
Philip Gehrman was not part of the research team, but the sleep medicine specialist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia told the wire service, “Military training teaches soldiers to keep one eye open and be alert at all times. There’s no subsequent retraining that takes place after deployment to unlearn those patterns.”