I love to sleep. I’m a mantress- half man, half mattress. I can sleep, nap, snooze, doze, grab z’s, check my eyelids, you name it.
But I’m also very much aware that many times in the field, troops just don’t have the luxury of sleeping properly. There’s both a lack of sleep, and the difficulty of getting good sleep. Sleeping on hard ground with a thin poncho isn’t nearly as nice as curling up on my Tempur-Pedic with a down comforter. But the war doesn’t stop just because night falls. Troops in the field maintain at least 1/3 of their troops on watch, and usually 50% on watch. That means getting a solid block of sleep is almost impossible. It’s one thing to go a week with only 3 or 4 hours sleep in a 24 hour period. But serving a 12 month tour in combat, with its attendant stress (and sleep is just about the best cure for stress) means that a chronic lack of sleep affects just about every grunt. And now research is showing this can have significant long term effects.
When veterans with PTSD start sleeping better, many of their daytime symptoms disappear.
Germain, the University of Pittsburgh researcher, has investigated sleep therapies that eliminate vets’ nightmares, including prazosin, a medication that controls nightmares by depressing adrenaline, and image rehearsal therapy, which teaches vets to refocus the imagery in their nightmares to something less threatening.
The early results are startling, she said, suggesting these therapies can reduce the anger, irritability and poor concentration associated with PTSD.
Dr. Karin Thompson, a psychologist at the Veterans Affairs’ hospital in Memphis, Tenn., and an author of “The Post Traumatic Insomnia Workbook,” has also seen how improving sleep benefits vets with PTSD, especially those with hypervigilance.
In her sleep clinic, Thompson teaches vets methods that will allow them to “reset” their central nervous systems, she said.
She encourages them to set a sleep schedule; to avoid alcohol, which harms the sleep cycle; to wake up at the same time every day; and to begin relaxing one hour before going to bed by taking a bath, for example, or doing yoga. They should not watch television or surf the Web while in bed.
Of course, it’s easy advice to give. Making it happen is something else…
Again, via the wonderful War News Updates