August 11, 2009

Combat veterans may need sleep help

U.S. researchers suggest some military personnel could benefit from treatment for sleep disturbances.

Dr. Taylor Plumb and Dr. Diane Zelman of the California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University found high rates of disturbed sleep among 375 current and former military personnel who served in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom or Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Even many months following deployment, 56.3 percent of participants reported sleep as bad or very bad within the last month.

Sleep problems were considerably more common and severe among those with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety. Factors associated with greater sleep problems included greater combat exposure, female gender, divorced or widowed status, lower education and lower rank.

Forty percent of the study participants reported experiencing delayed sleep onset, while 59 percent reported middle of the night awakenings at least three times a week and 46 percent reported general nervousness.

The findings were presented at the 117th annual convention of the American Psychological Association in Toronto.