Sleep & Invisible Wounds

Sleep is a basic human need, and something many people don’t get enough of. Lack of sleep for the average civilian can lead to increased risk for heart disease and stroke, weight gain, depression, inflammation of the body, and affects emotions and social interactions. In the military, lack of sleep is an even more common occurrence. 

According to a 2013 study, 85% of participants showed signs of a clinical sleep disorder, 51% of which were obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and nearly 25% were suffering from insomnia. All signs point towards a need for more and better sleep amongst service members. When the effects of the invisible wounds of war: traumatic brain injury (TBI) & post-traumatic stress (PTS) are factored in, the need for better sleep becomes critical. 

Insomnia and difficulty falling or staying asleep are hallmark symptoms of PTS. Other symptoms of PTS such as flashbacks of the traumatic event, hypervigilance, and nightmares can also disrupt and hinder quality of sleep. 

For TBI sufferers, sleep issues can be much more complex, depending upon the type and severity of the injury. Our brains control our internal clocks which, through chemicals in the body, designate when we sleep and when we wake up. If that part of the brain is impacted by the injury, it can result in a chemical imbalance, which can disrupt a regular sleep schedule. In other cases, the part of the brain that controls breathing can be affected by the injury. When that occurs, breathing can halt for periods that result in a drop in blood oxygen levels, also known as sleep apnea. In addition, the effects of brain injuries such as physical pain and depression can interfere with a person’s sleep. 

What can be done to help our sleep-deprived service members? Some of the basic first steps to fostering better sleep include creating a restful and safe location to sleep that’s cool and comfortable. Before-bed activities such as a warm bath, meditation, a cup of herbal tea, or yoga are all calming ways to ease into a good night’s sleep. 

Increasing both the quality and quantity of sleep are critical for better health for us all but for service member suffering the effects of TBI or PTS, specific treatment for their afflictions is also essential. The Intrepid Spirit Centers, constructed by the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, are forging the path to recovery for thousands of service members who have sustained TBI and PTS. With 8 centers operational, 1 under construction, and 1 more planned, these facilities are healing and saving the lives of our service members, allowing them to return to Active Duty or regular civilian life. Please consider supporting the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund today with a donation in order to provide this critical care to more service members across the country. 

Posted on July 29 2019 in Blog

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