Having Trouble Sleeping?
MARCH 22, 2018 | 3-minute read
Veterans returning from deployment find great relief coming back to their families, their homes, and their own beds. The feeling of familiarity and support can do a lot for a Veteran recovering from the stresses of deployment.
But while Veterans may take comfort in spending days with loved ones and friends, at night they may have difficulty getting a good night’s sleep.
Causes of Sleeping Problems
Sometimes the trouble may stem from irregular sleep schedules and shift work required during deployments. “I didn’t sleep well for six months after my first deployment. Sometimes I would wake up and I would feel like my brain was still working, even though I was asleep,” recalls Josh, a U.S. Air Force Veteran.
Other times the issues may be rooted in trauma experienced in service. Unpleasant memories can resurface in the form nightmares. “Getting out of the war and remembering bits and pieces of it … sometimes it happens in nightmares,” says Ernest, a U.S. Navy and Coast Guard Veteran. Frequent or chronic nightmares may be signs of conditions like PTSD.
Regardless of the cause, interrupted sleep patterns can take a toll on a person’s well-being. Sleep deprivation can often lead from one sleepless night to the next. The negative effects are compounded and may intensify Veterans’ reactions to other challenges in their lives, leaving them feeling stuck and unsure of how to stop the cycle.
The Two Sides of Better Sleep
For Veterans experiencing sleep issues, the path to a better night’s rest may require a twofold approach.
One step involves becoming informed about proper sleep environments and behaviors that help prepare the body and mind for sleep. While everyone has different preferences, the American Sleep Association reports that people having trouble sleeping often benefit from avoiding blue light and screens at night, as well as opting for calming activities like journaling or reading right before bedtime.
A relaxing bedtime routine is only one part of the equation. Underlying physical, mental, or emotional issues may require professional support to get a Veteran’s sleep cycle back on track. Medical care and counseling can help address the root causes of sleep issues in a safe, comfortable environment. By facing their problems in the daytime hours, Veterans can release the tension or fear that prevents relaxation, hopefully resulting in more sound sleep at night.
Getting Better Sleep Is a Process
Changing any behavior is a process that takes work. It requires developing new habits and uncovering the mental, physical, and emotional factors that are keeping you from your goal. But the commitment to greater well-being, especially in an area as important as sleep, is worth the effort.
“Actually, being home and being comfortable where you are, and who you are, and what you’re doing is an amazing feeling,” says Rachel, a U.S. Army National Guard Veteran. “Don’t wait. 20 years is too long to go with sleepless nights. You don’t have to.”