(Veterans for Common Sense – Sep. 5, 2019) – An epic-sized study of U.S. Army soldiers found 600-percent increases between 2003 and 2011 in the incidences of insomnia and sleep apnea, with both at least partially linked to deployment. Meanwhile, exposure to combat was also associated with increased risk — albeit smaller (20%) — of developing insomnia, but not of developing sleep apnea.
The study by researchers at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM) evaluated medical, demographic, deployment, and combat casualty data from all of the more than 1.3 million active duty US Army soldiers who served on active duty from 1997 to 2011.
Study results showed a risk of developing either insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) more than doubled in deployed versus non-deployed soldiers.
According to Mayo Clinic, untreated sleep apnea can result in not just excessive daytime fatigue, feeling quick-tempered, moody, or depressed, but also increased risk of but increased motor vehicle accidents, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, liver scarring , and complications with medications and surgery.
Study results showed the risk of developing insomnia to be increased by a smaller but significant degree – 20 percent – among deployed soldiers. However, there was no difference in risk of developing sleep apnea found between soldiers with and without combat exposure.
PTSD and TBI were identified as the likely cause of “a portion” of the dramatic increase in the deployment-associated sleep disorders. However, the researchers noted, “it is essential to determine underlying mechanisms responsible for these very large increases in insomnia and OSA and introduce effective preventive measures.”
The study, led by USARIEM researchers Dr. John A. Caldwell and Dr. Harris Liebermanas, compared the 2011 results to earlier 2003 findings.
Results of the study were published in the August 2019 edition of the scientific journal, Sleep:“The association of insomnia and sleep apnea with deployment and combat exposure in the entire population of US army soldiers from 1997 to 2011: a retrospective cohort investigation.”