A new study has found a high prevalence of sleep disorders among active duty personnel, as well as a “startlingly” high rate of short sleep duration.
“While sleep deprivation is part of the military culture, the high prevalence of short sleep duration in military personnel with sleep disorders was surprising,” said Vincent Mysliwiec, MD, the study’s principal investigator, lead author and chief of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash.
“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.”
Study subjects were active duty military personnel from the U.S. Army, Air Force and Navy, comprising mostly men (93.2%) and combat veterans (85.2%), according to the researchers, who noted that sleep disorder diagnoses were determined by a board certified sleep medicine physician.
The study found that a majority of those surveyed — 85.1 percent — had a “clinically relevant” sleep disorder. Obstructive sleep apnea was the most frequent diagnosis (51.2 percent), followed by insomnia (24.7 percent).
Researchers analyzed 725 polysomnograms performed in 2010 at Madigan Army Medical Center. The diagnostic test, conducted in a sleep laboratory, involves subjects staying overnight in a sleeping room with a variety of sensors applied to the body to collect information, including brain waves (EEG activity), heart rate (EKG), eye movements, leg muscle activity, chest and stomach movement, air flow, and the amount of oxygen in the blood.
The results also show that 58.1 percent of the military personnel had one or more medical disorders, determined by a medical record review. The most common were depression (22.6 percent), anxiety (16.8 percent), post-traumatic stress disorder (13.2 percent), and mild traumatic brain injury (12.8 percent), the researchers report.
Other findings of the study: Nearly 25 percent were taking medications for pain. Participants with PTSD were two times more likely to have insomnia, and those with depression or pain syndrome were about 1.5 times more likely to have insomnia.
The findings appeared in the journal SLEEP.