The majority of active-duty service members do not get the recommended amount of sleep during their service. This deprivation can lead to sleep disorders, like insomnia, and other major mental and physical health issues. Veterans with these sleep deprivation effects may be eligible to receive VA disability benefits.
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In this article about sleep deprivation
- Military Sleep Deprivation
- What is Sleep Deprivation?
- Military Causes of Sleep Deprivation
- Sleep Deprivation Effects
- How To Receive VA Benefits For Effects of Sleep Deprivation
- How Woods and Woods Can Help
Military Sleep Deprivation
If you found it challenging to get an adequate amount of sleep each day of your service, you are not alone. An estimated 76% of active-duty service members do not get the recommended amount of sleep each night.
Unfortunately, sleep deprivation is connected with many other medical diagnoses. It can present as both a cause and a symptom of physical and mental health issues. Periods of sleep deprivation can lead to problems returning to a regular sleep pattern and even cause medical problems that continue long after service is completed.
What is Sleep Deprivation?
Sleep deprivation is the term used to describe getting less than the recommended number of hours of sleep each night. For adults, that’s at least seven hours of sleep.
Veterans with insomnia
Insomnia is a type of sleep disorder that has a symptom of sleep deprivation. People with insomnia have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night. Doctors diagnose chronic insomnia in patients when these symptoms continue for over a month. One study found insomnia in one out of four active-duty military service members.
Military Causes of Sleep Deprivation
Why are active-duty service members and veterans at an increased risk of sleep deprivation?
One reason could be the culture of the military. Both service members and officers may downplay the importance of sleep, making it challenging to implement better sleep policies. Service members may also be reluctant to share that they need more rest.
The environment around military service members may not be the most conducive for sleep. From training to deployment, service members may be trying to sleep in noisy, crowded, or even threatening surroundings.
Circadian rhythm disruption
Humans have an internal clock that helps the body prepare for sleep. This daily routine, or “circadian rhythm,” is supported by genes within our cells. When the circadian rhythm is disrupted, it can result in sleep deprivation.
Crossing multiple time zones, which is something pilots or units that must deploy quickly often do, can throw off the circadian rhythm. Active-duty service also often comes with irregular work schedules, including overnight shifts, that disrupt regular sleep routines and lead to sleep deprivation.
Studies have shown that energy drink consumption is much higher among military service members than in general. One study found 53% of service members had consumed an energy drink in the last month, and 38% within the previous week. Service members who regularly drank energy drinks reported trouble sleeping. Along with the possible effects of sleep deprivation, the drinks could also contribute to health problems, including several heart diseases and related diagnoses.
Sleep Deprivation Effects
Beyond several possible physical and mental health diagnoses, poor sleep also impacts your daily life. The ability to effectively accomplish your tasks at work or home and your ability to cope with stress are all affected.
Sleep Deprivation Effects On The Body
Sleep deprivation has been linked with hypertension, or high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease. Sleep deprivation is also connected with coronary heart disease, often associated with a buildup of plaque within the coronary arteries which can block blood flow in the heart. Kidney disease, cancer, and diabetes can also be linked to sleep deficiencies.
Sleep Deprivation Effects On The Brain
Traumatic Brain Injuries
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is an injury that results in damage to brain cells, brain tissue, bleeding or other physical damage to the brain. How is that directly related to sleep deprivation?
Most traumatic TBI’s are the result of accidents, and one study found the chances of being harmed in an accident increase 1.6 times in those with sleep deprivation.
Sleep deprivation is both a cause for a TBI and a symptom. One of the most common symptoms of TBIs is insomnia.
A stroke happens when blood supply is cut off from the brain, killing brain cells by depriving them of oxygen and nutrients. People who get six or fewer hours of sleep each night have a four times greater risk of stroke symptoms.
Psychological Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can also contribute to mental health diagnoses or increase or intensify the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In one study, 23% of service members displayed mental health disorder symptoms after sleeping three or fewer hours a night—17% with four or less.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Left untreated, sleep deprivation may contribute to mid- or late-life PTSD. Studies estimate that PTSD affects 11 to 30% of all veterans.
Studies have also shown that at least 90% of Vietnam veterans with PTSD also have insomnia. Because of this connection, the VA may provide benefits for insomnia, or other sleep-related disorders, as secondary to PTSD if the veteran’s PTSD diagnosis was service-connected.
Studies suggest that 60 – 84% of patients with depression also had insomnia, and the sleep deprivation symptoms can continue after the depression symptoms subside. As with PTSD, the VA may provide a service connection for insomnia secondary to depression if the veteran’s depression diagnosis was service-connected.
How To Receive VA Benefits For Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation alone does not have a VA rating. However, if your sleep deprivation resulted in a diagnosis of insomnia, you might be eligible for VA disability benefits.
In this video, one of our certified VA disability lawyers discusses how sleep disorders can be connected to military service:
Secondary VA Benefit Relationships with Insomnia
Insomnia can be both a cause and a symptom of the health issues mentioned above. Because of that, there are various ways veterans may incorporate a diagnosis of insomnia into a claim for disability compensation.
If you have service-related insomnia that contributed to another health issue, or if you have another service-connected health issue that contributed to your insomnia, speak with a VA disability attorney to discuss applying for additional benefits.
How Woods and Woods Can Help
Woods and Woods has helped thousands of veterans with their VA disability applications and appeals. We help veterans file their initial claims for free. Veterans who need assistance with their appeals receive the support of an experienced and innovative team of lawyers, case managers, and researchers. We only charge a fee if the veteran wins their appeal.
Talk to Us About Your Claim: (866) 232-5777
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Sleep deprivation shows up as both a cause and a symptom of physical and mental health issues. Sleep deprivation can contribute to heart disease, kidney disease, strokes, diabetes, PTSD, and depression. In addition, periods of sleep deprivation can lead to problems returning to a regular sleep pattern and even cause medical problems that continue long after military service is completed.
Insomnia can be both a cause and a symptom of many health issues. Because of that, there are various ways veterans may incorporate a diagnosis of insomnia for a service connection on a secondary basis. If you have service-connected insomnia that contributed to another health issue, speak with a VA disabilities attorney to discuss applying for benefits.