When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, military members and their families face unique challenges and circumstances. Below are the 8 top reasons you may not be getting the rest you need, and some practical tips for dealing with your specific difficulties.
Sleep deprivation often feels inevitable for military members and their families, with insomnia being a major contributor to fatigue. While many service members report they have more trouble falling asleep as a result of trauma or stress, their spouses are just as likely to lay wide awake at night due to negative thoughts and worry, particularly if their partner is currently or has been previously deployed. In fact, a RAND Corporation study found that about 44 percent of spouses reported sleeping 7 hours or less per night, with 54 percent reporting daytime fatigue due to lack of sleep.
Tips to overcome it:
While active duty military may have less control over their schedules while deployed, experts agree that establishing a set routine at home is one of the most effective ways to alleviate insomnia.
Going to bed and waking up at the same time is a crucial behavioral strategy that not only helps you get a better night’s rest but creates a sense of normalcy during emotionally and mentally turbulent times. Eliminating caffeine by 3 pm, turning off devices at least one hour before bedtime and adequate exercise are also effective in helping you get some much needed shut-eye.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, active duty military personnel have a higher prevalence of sleep disorders—including sleep apnea, insomnia, and short sleep duration—than the general population.
Results from a recent AASM study showed that 85.1 percent of the same population suffered from a relevant sleep disorder. Over half (52.12 percent) experienced obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and nearly one quarter also reported insomnia (24.7 percent). Nearly 41.8 percent reported sleeping five hours or less per night.
Importantly, the average adult requires about seven to eight hours of sleep to optimally perform even daily functions. In addition to contributing to fatigue, each of these sleep disorders is linked to serious mental health issues like depression and anxiety as well as higher risk for cardiovascular disease.
Tips to overcome it:
Sleep disorders can result from a variety of factors, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is crucial for military members to not only receive a proper diagnosis of their condition but to also identify underlying issues. Seeking a board certified physician who specializes in diagnosing and treating sleep disorders is an important first step. A qualified medical professional can help active duty military and veterans get access to the right sleep studies and, importantly, help provide documentation critical to filing any related disability claims under new VA guidelines.
Military members and their loved ones experience significant stress throughout the deployment cycle. Sadness, anger, restlessness and increased tension are just some of the feelings that can be exacerbated by separation—especially if a loved one is deployed to a combat zone or exposed to danger.
According to researchers from the University of Pittsburg, sleeping next to someone actually encourages feelings of safety and security, which likely lowers the stress hormone cortisol. That means simply sleeping alone can heighten feelings of frustration, insecurity and loneliness.
Tip to overcome it:
While there is no cure for missing or worrying about your loved one, there are several effective coping mechanisms. First, recognize your need to rest and recharge in order to maintain the necessary energy to navigate a wide range of emotions and daily challenges. Develop a network of support if you can—either within or outside the military community—to help with errands, household chores or babysitting if only to get a much needed nap.
Parents of children can create a bedtime routine that not only helps them stick to a schedule but also creates a sense of closeness. A bedtime story, including one pre-recorded by the deployed spouse, can allow family members to hear a familiar and reassuring voice. Looking at family pictures, journaling feelings and even writing letters to your spouse before bedtime can also help you get a better night’s sleep.
Not surprisingly, one of the most requested care package items for deployed members of the military is a freshly laundered pillowcase: wash, dry, then seal the pillowcase in an airtight bag to maintain the fresh scent of home until it’s delivered.
Cuddling, pillow talk and a boost of oxytocin (a.k.a. the love hormone) are just a few of the benefits of sharing a bed with your loved one. If you got used to hogging the covers and sprawling across the entire bed while your military spouse was deployed, though, you might be in for a few adjustments in the bedroom when he or she comes home.
Tips to overcome it:
Invest in a good set of earplugs and possibly a sound machine if your partner snores. If tossing and turning is a problem for either of you, consider getting a mattress with individually pocketed springs. Because each encased coil compresses independently, the transfer of motion that can wake you or your partner will be minimized.
When selecting a hybrid mattress—a mattress that offers individually pocketed springs and at least one layer of top foam—look for layers that consist of a latex foam alternative or more contouring support like memory foam. That’s because, while latex is considered a premium feature, it tends to have far more responsiveness (or bounce) that can cause motion disturbance for active sleepers.
There are a number of causes for night sweats. Among the most common causes for night sweats in military members are a higher metabolism in males and higher levels of activity for both genders who serve. A male’s metabolism is generally 23% higher than that of a female, and a higher metabolic rate will naturally coincide with a higher body temperature. Meanwhile, intense workouts and physical demands can cause your thyroid to release more hormones in support of more activity. Both the increase in metabolism and the shift in hormones can lead to night sweats. Veterans, unfortunately, also report higher than average night sweats due to nightmares.
Tips to overcome it:
While underlying causes for night sweats—such as PTSD—require professional medical treatment, there are sleep products specifically designed for cooling. Most foam mattresses now feature open cell technology for better breathability while individually pocketed springs contribute to better airflow.
More elite mattresses with advanced cooling technology offer what’s known as a phase change molecule (PCM) surface infusion. PCM, infused in foam, can distribute cooling relief throughout the sleep experience. The most advanced cooling technology is actually derived from simple science: the average skin temperature is 91 degrees but the ideal sleep temperature is 88 degrees. By using a PCM surface infusion of cooling gel beads, proprietary technologies like TitanCool™ can moderate your temperature to the optimal 88 degrees. PCM technology can be found in pillows as well, delivering a cooler night’s sleep by drawing heat out and away from the head and neck area.
One of the number one threats to military families—and military readiness—is injuries, stemming from both the necessity and tradition to perform. Musculoskeletal injuries that affect the lower back, knee, ankle or shoulders account for the majority of sick calls in active duty military and many of the disability claims filed by veterans.
Tips to overcome it:
Sleep experts often recommend an adjustable bed frame for individuals dealing with musculoskeletal injuries and chronic illness. Adjustable bed frames vary widely in price, depending on whether you choose one that is manually or electronically controlled. Both versions can provide the ability to adjust head and foot simultaneously. They can also help reduce the effects of sleep apnea and snoring, uniformly minimize lower spine pressure and reduce swelling while promoting better circulation for healing.
A permanent change of station can happen as often as every two years for military families. While getting to see different corners of the world can be exciting, frequently settling into new communities and new schools—usually just when you’ve fallen in love with your current location—is emotional.
Moving your belongings, whether you choose to do it yourself or seek military assistance, is also stressful and daunting. Military families’ personal possessions are subject to a high degree of wear and tear as well the occasional damage associated with any relocation.
Tips to overcome it:
If you’re in the market for a new mattress—either as a replacement or upgrade—placing an online order and scheduling delivery to coincide with your arrival date at your new home is the way to go. Online mattress retailers can compress any size mattress into a box and deliver your bed straight to your door.
Companies like Brooklyn Bedding allow you to order and delay shipping until it’s convenient for you to receive the mattress. Most online mattress companies also provide a free trial period of up to 120 days to ensure you love your sleep experience.
Buying a mattress is both a worthy and significant investment. That’s because the average lifespan of a mattress is 7 to 10 years—and, most importantly, a quality night’s sleep is essential for your overall health and well-being.
Companies like Brooklyn Bedding that manufacture and retail their own mattresses in the USA can typically offer higher quality products at lower prices by designing, constructing, and shipping directly to you. They also have the latitude to offer deeper discounts to causes they care about, including support for current and former military members and their families.
Did you know? Any individual with military credentials from ID.me can save 25% on every product sold at BrooklynBedding.com, every day.