Sleep disturbance is highly prevalent among combat soldiers, according to a recent study. While not fully preventable in operational contexts, these problems can be effectively mitigated post-deployment with appropriate policy and intervention resources. Improving the sleep characteristics of combat-exposed soldiers following deployment should reduce subsequent post-traumatic stress and related health compromising behavior, thereby enhancing force readiness. Soldiers (n=2,420) from a brigade combat team completed surveys assessing combat experiences, and psychological and behavioral health factors, approximately 3 months following deployment to Afghanistan in 2011. Respondents were 93.5% male; 73% were aged 18–29 years. Researchers found:
- The response rate was 80% (3,076/3,832); 94% (2,876/3,076) of the soldiers who attended the recruitment briefings consented to participate in this research.
- Complete data were available across the variables used in this study for up to 2,420 soldiers.
- Sleep continuity disturbance accounted for the association of combat exposure with post-traumatic stress symptoms and aggression, alcohol use, and risky behavior.
- Moreover, for soldiers who reported sleep duration of <6 hours per day, the indirect association of combat exposure and post-traumatic stress on aggression, alcohol use, risky behavior, and opioid use was strongest.
Osgood JM, Finan PH, Hinman SJ, So CJ, Quartana PJ. Combat exposure, post-traumatic stress symptoms, and health-related behaviors: The role of sleep continuity and duration. [Published online ahead of print December 17, 2018]. Sleep. doi:10.1093/sleep/zsy257.