This Veteran’s Day we are reminded of those who’ve risked their lives to protect our country. While most veterans might agree they’ve gone through sleepless nights in order to prepare and train for combat, what they may not realize is that they’re not just sacrificing their lives, but possibly the future of their health. After deployment many veterans experience sleep problems according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. The cultural thinking in the military is that sleep is for the weak. But this actually goes against what many health advocates advise about our need to get proper sleep. After the military, many veterans experience sleep problems that require medical attention.

According to data from the US Department of Veterans Affairs, the number of veterans receiving disability benefits for sleep disorders has increased to 61% in the past two years. For veterans the diagnosis and treatment of a sleep disorder is a bit more complex because of other military related conditions such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Statistics show that veterans are four times more likely than other Americans to suffer from sleep apnea, a pause in breathing during the night, according to Max Hirshkowitz, director of the Sleep Disorder Center at the Houston Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The exact reason is unknown, however, if veterans are not getting the quality sleep their body needs during the night they will experience daytime sleepiness and even symptoms that may resemble that of depression. It is important to note depression may cause sleep problems and sleep problems may be contributing to depression according to the National Sleep Foundation. Therefore, veterans who have difficulty sleeping at night, experience tiredness during the day or show signs or symptoms of depression should see their physician for appropriate screening and treatment options.

Snoring is another common sleep disorder that veterans suffer from at an increasing rate. Snoring can be a symptom of sleep apnea. Snoring is also caused by the obstruction of tissues in the airway. The true diagnosis and treatment for snoring and other disorders like sleep apnea, insomnia and restless legs can be properly diagnosed through an overnight sleep test at a sleep facility.

Veterans who are suffering from insomnia or other sleep problems may find some relief from adopting a healthy sleep routine.

Here are some tips for veterans who are experiencing difficulty sleeping.

Hide your alarm clock. Constantly looking at the alarm clock during the night can stir thoughts of counting the hours and minutes left to sleep that create unnecessary anxiety. Furthermore the light from the clock creates background “noise” that disturbs sound sleep.
Have a pen and paper handy. By keeping a pen and notepad by your bed you can put all those worrisome thoughts to rest by writing them down.
Use the room for sleeping and sex only. The bedroom should not be used as a place to work or concentrate. Make it a place and time for relaxation.
Quit smoking.
Eliminate caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant and will only keep you up at night when you are trying to rest your mind.
Don’t exercise right before bed. Exercise is important for good sleep but should not be done too close to bedtime. Allow a few hours before you go to bed to do your exercising.

For some, recognizing the need to change certain habits or seek medical treatment is not always easy, but it may be especially difficult for some veterans. Making an appointment with your physician or a sleep specialist can help you to recognize the need for further evaluation. If you’d like to see a sleep specialist, some sleep centers like Valley Sleep Center, offer consulting appointments with a sleep physician to discuss your sleep concerns and appropriate treatment options.

Since 2002, Valley Sleep Center, accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, has provided Arizona with diagnostic sleep disorder testing in a home-like atmosphere, ensuring a comfortable, relaxing experience for patients.  Their Board Certified Sleep Medicine Specialists consist of experienced and knowledgeable physicians who provide expert advice across a multitude of sleep related disorders including insomnia, sleep apnea, snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, hypertension, sleepwalking, and pediatric sleep problems.  They accept most insurance plans as well as Medicare.  For more information contact Lauri Leadley at 480-830-3900;