Sleep in the Military: Promoting Healthy Sleep among U.S. Servicemembers

By Wendy M. Troxel; Regina A. Shih et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
Assessing Sleep Disturbances and Consequences Among
Post-Deployed Servicemembers

As summarized in Chapter Two, the existing literature provides suggestive evidence that sleep problems are a prevalent and salient issue among servicemembers. Military deployments may be associated with an increased risk of sleep problems, and these problems are associated with numerous downstream consequences. These findings have generally been derived from studies that included single- or few-item assessments of isolated sleep symptoms (e.g., trouble sleeping or sleep duration). However, sleep is a multidimensional state, with both nocturnal characteristics (e.g., quality, duration, nightmares) and associated daytime consequences (e.g., sleepiness, fatigue). No study to date has examined multiple dimensions of sleep and associated daytime impairments in a large sample of servicemembers across all Services and components. Further, few studies have utilized validated sleep measures. In addition, only a handful of studies have examined sleep problems according to deployment history or characteristics of the deployment that may increase the risk of stress-related sleep disturbances (e.g., exposure to combat). Moreover, the existing literature has generally focused on a single Service, which may limit the generalizability of the findings. Finally, given that sleep problems are known to covary with sociodemographic and military characteristics, as well as overall well-being, questions still remain as to whether sleep is merely a proxy for these co-occurring factors or an independent correlate of key indicators of mental and physical health and operational readiness.

We conducted a cross-sectional survey study examining a broad assessment of sleep problems and associated consequences in a large and diverse sample of servicemembers across all four branches of the U.S. armed forces. This study was designed to provide an in-depth analysis of the types of sleep problems and behaviors among servicemembers, specific subgroups of servicemembers who may be at greater risk for sleep problems, and the degree to which sleep problems are independently associated with mental and physical health and operational readiness. In addition to including a broad assessment of servicemembers’ self-reported sleep problems, this study is also the first to include spouse/bed partners’ reports of sleep symptoms to provide corroborating data on sleeping behaviors of which the sleeping individual may be unaware, such as snoring, which is a primary symptom of OSA.

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