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Active duty military personnel prone to sleep disorders

Filed in
  • Sleep Disorders
  • military
  • sleep length

By Lynn Celmer  |  Feb 06, 2013
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A new study found a high prevalence of sleep disorders and a startlingly high rate of short sleep duration among active duty military personnel. The study suggests the need for a cultural change toward appropriate sleep practices throughout the military.

Results show that the majority of participants (85.1 percent) had a clinically relevant sleep disorder. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) was the most frequent diagnosis (51.2 percent), followed by insomnia (24.7 percent). Participants' mean self-reported home sleep duration was only 5.74 hours per night, and 41.8 percent reported sleeping five hours or less per night. According to the AASM, individual sleep needs vary; however, most adults need about seven to eight hours of nightly sleep to feel alert and well-rested during the day.

"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."

The study, appearing in the February issue of the journal SLEEP, involved a retrospective cross-sectional cohort analysis of 725 diagnostic polysomnograms performed in 2010 at Madigan Army Medical Center. 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%). Sleep disorder diagnoses were adjudicated by a board certified sleep medicine physician.

Results also show that 58.1 percent of the military personnel had one or more medical comorbidities, determined by medical record review. The most common service-related illnesses were depression (22.6%), anxiety (16.8%), post-traumatic stress disorder (13.2%), and mild traumatic brain injury (12.8%). 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 American Academy of Sleep Medicine considers sleep disorders an illness that has reached epidemic proportions. Board-certified sleep medicine physicians in an AASM-accredited sleep center provide effective treatment. AASM encourages patients to talk to their doctors about sleep problems or visit for a searchable directory of sleep centers.


  1. 1 AASM 03 May
    Skyler - Glad to hear that CPAP is making a positive difference for you. Thank you for serving our country.
  2. 2 Skyler Parker 02 May
    I have finally gotten a diagnosis of severe sleep apnea after jumping through hoops and swimming through red tape. The CPAP was a much needed relief, especially for help with depression/anxiety. Glad to see someone is finally taking note of the problems AD military faces because of sleep.

    Active Duty Army for 5 years.
  3. 3 marcus hicks 28 Jun
    requesting sleep study for my health wife say stop and have been having bad headaches plus snore loud.