Health & Safety

June 6, 2014

Sleep critical to good health

Maj. Robin Shelton,
Army Public Health Nursing Chief Weed Army Community Hospital NTC and Fort Irwin

Adequate sleep plays a critical role in maintaining one’s health.

Yet, 42 percent of military personnel are getting less than five hours of sleep per night according to researchers at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash. This particular study revealed various sleep disorders among active duty military members including sleep apnea, insomnia, and behaviorally induced insufficient sleep syndrome. Behaviorally induced insufficient sleep syndrome means personnel routinely do not get enough sleep each night.

Among the study group, half of the 85 percent who had deployed did so with at least two sleeping disorders. Researchers also reported that individuals with post traumatic disorder syndrome were more than twice as likely to suffer from insomnia, and those with chronic pain almost 50 percent more likely to experience insomnia.

These statistics are alarming. Sleep is necessary not only for good health, but for overall well-being and maximal functioning according to William Kohler, MD, director of the Florida Sleep Institute in Spring Hill, Fla. Lack of sleep can result in poor performance and impaired judgment. Sleep is also crucial in sustaining the mental capacity needed for successful training on and off the battlefield. Simple tasks such as driving and communicating can be impaired by lack of regular sleep (seven to eight hours every 24 hours.)

In addition, inadequate sleep or short sleep is associated with weight gain, obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease according to researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Researchers found that what you eat may also play a role in how much you sleep. The new study revealed that short sleepers (five to six hours per night) consume the most calories followed by normal sleepers (seven to eight hours), but normal sleepers consumed a greater variety of foods. Consuming a variety of foods is one indicator of a healthy diet. For the first time researchers showed that certain nutrients may influence sleep patterns.

Signs of insufficient sleep in Soldiers include:

• Difficulty staying awake while driving, during guard duty, or mission breaks

• Difficulty understanding or tracking information

• Attention lapses

• Irritability and decreased initiative

Tips for developing good sleep habits for Soldiers include:

• Sleep seven to eight hours every 24 hours

• Do not consume caffeine within six hours of bedtime

• Do not exercise three hours before bedtime

• Establish an evening routine of winding down 30-60 minutes before bedtime. Stop using electronics.

• Empty your bladder before going to bed.

• Sleep in a safe, quiet place, use soft foam earplugs or a fan to block sounds and a sleep mask to block light.

• Wake up at the same time every day.

• See your healthcare provider if sleep problems persist.

For more information on sleep visit the United States Army Public Health Command Web site at http://phc.amedd.army.mil/topics/healthyliving/sleep/Pages/BestSleepHabits.aspx.




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