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These Are The Troops Most Affected By The Military's Worsening Sleep Problem
The U.S. military's sleep problem is getting worse, and it's hurting certain troops more than others.
Instances of insomnia among military personnel have nearly quadrupled in the last decade, rising from 16 reported cases in every 1,000 troops in 2005 to 75 in every 1,000 in 2014, a 372% increase, according to a new study published in the Journal of Sleep Research.
Cases of obstructive sleep apnea — blockages in the upper airway that affect breathing — have seen a five-fold increase, rising from 44 cases in every 1,000 troops in 2005 to 273 in every 1,000 in 2014, a 517% jump.
Overall, the incidence of the two disorders among service members is nearly double that of the U.S. civilian population.
“Sleep disorders are a serious problem that interferes with the ability of soldiers to do their jobs effectively,” study author Harris Lieberman of the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine told Reuters. “When you’re sleep deprived, you can’t use your brain in the way soldiers need to do … You’re unable to think at the level you can perform at when well-rested.”
Chart via Journal of Sleep Research
If this research is correct, the results suggest that out of the total U.S. military population of 1.4 million personnel, some 105,000 were dealing with insomnia and 382,200 with sleep apnea — which would mean that, as of 2014, nearly a third of America’s fighting force isn’t getting adequate sleep.
The impact of sleep issues isn’t spread equally across the armed forces. The study reveals that while men tend to experience higher rates of sleep apnea, it’s women who have to deal with insomnia most. Generally, African-Americans, senior enlisted personnel, Army personnel, and all individuals over the age of 40 disproportionately report falling victim to both disorders.
The findings support the results of a 2015 RAND Corporation study on sleep problems in the U.S. military, in which nearly half the service members surveyed reported “clinically significant” poor sleep quality. Only 37% of service members reported getting the recommended eight hours of sack time each night.
Chart via RAND Corporation
This is a big problem for the Department of Defense. Pentagon research has shown for years that poor sleep patterns negatively impact operational readiness and future health and well-being. The 2015 RAND study found that 33% of service members reported feeling fatigued more than 3 times a week due to lack of sleep, while 51% reported some sort of sleep-related impact on their daily responsibilities.
The RAND study also suggests that clinical fatigue creates a vicious cycle of chemical dependence among service members, in which troops use energy drinks and other stimulants to make up for their sleep debt and turn to sleep aids to help them finally conk out at night:
A prior study by Joint Mental Health Advisory Team 7, established to assess the behavioral health and treatment of deployed forces, found that almost 50 percent of deployed servicemembers used energy drinks on a daily basis.
Less is known, however, about how frequently servicemembers use these products after returning home. In the RAND sample, only 8–10 percent reported daily use of energy drinks, but service members in the sample tended to be older, all were married, and most were not currently deployed, which could help to explain the differences between the RAND and Joint Mental Health Advisory Team studies.
The use of sleep medications was more common: More than 18 percent of servicemembers surveyed reported using sleep medications in the past month, which is consistent with use among the general population.
While RAND noted at the time that the “efficacy and safety” of medical supplements in military settings hasn’t been fully explored, chronic use is likely to contribute to long-term health problems, which could pose a big problem down the line for a VA already facing increasing health-care costs.
But the pressing problem isn’t future health-care costs: It’s operational readiness downrange. And with sleep disorders on the rise, American combat troops aren’t nearly as sharp and efficient as they should be — a condition that could come with deadly consequences.
PORTLAND — They are "the honored dead" for this special day each year, on Memorial Day.
But for the rest of the year, America's war dead of the 20th century can be far removed from the nation's awareness.
The final resting places of some 124,000-plus U.S. servicemen are at far-away hallowed grounds not always known to their countrymen.
They are America's overseas military cemeteries.
NEWPORT — The explosion and sinking of the ship in 1943 claimed at least 1,138 lives, and while the sea swallowed the bones there were people, too, who also worked to shroud the bodies.
The sinking of the H.M.T. Rohna was the greatest loss of life at sea by enemy action in the history of U.S. war, but the British Admiralty demanded silence from the survivors and the tragedy was immediately classified by the U.S. War Department.
Michael Walsh of Newport is working to bring the story of the Rohna to the surface with a documentary film, which includes interviews with some of the survivors of the attack. Walsh has interviewed about 45 men who were aboard the ship when it was hit.
Editor's note: this story originally appeared in 2018
How you die matters. Ten years ago, on Memorial Day, I was in Fallujah, serving a year-long tour on the staff and conducting vehicle patrols between Abu Ghraib and Ramadi. That day I attended a memorial service in the field. It was just one of many held that year in Iraq, and one of the countless I witnessed over my 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Like many military veterans, Memorial Day is not abstract to me. It is personal; a moment when we remember our friends. A day, as Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “sacred to memories of love and grief and heroic youth."