Thursday, September 04, 2008

Lack of sleep is new enemy of returning soldiers

As soldiers come home from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, the physical injuries they face are sometimes less challemnging than the mental exhaustion caused by lack of sleep. Veterans' health is a rural concern because troops come disproportionately from rural areas.

About 36 percent of Army troops who have been back for a year complain of feeling tired during the day, and another 34 percent say they difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, Jia-Rui Chong writes for the Los Angeles Times. Researchers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center found that sleeping/waking problems were the most commonly cited health issues returning soldiers were facing.

Soldiers returning to the U.S. must confront the challenges of redefining a routine and fitting back into civilian life. Mitch Hood, 25, battles nightmares and 18-hour days since he's returned, supporting himself on energy drinks and caffeine pills. Bill Rider, a Vietnam veteran, is all too familiar with the signs of exhaustion, having suffered from the same trauma and fatigue after returning from duty 40 years ago. He helped found a combat support group in 2001 and insists that, "Sleep deprivation ... is an ongoing discussion," particularly for victims of trauma and veterans, he told Chong.

Many veterans seek help from painkillers and sleeping pills, but the risk of prescribing medication for soldiers suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is high. "Up to 60 percent struggle daily with substance abuse," Dr. Tasha Souter, medical director of the Trauma Recovery Program at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System, told Chong. Click here to read more.

No comments: