Military Connection: New Veteran : By Debbie Gregory

sleep disorderAmericans know that such conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) have plagued the generation of Veterans who fought in the Global War on Terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan. But there are other conditions that seem to be unique to this generation of war Veterans, greatly affecting their ability to sleep.

One of these conditions is sleep apnea. As of July, 2014, more than 114,000 Veterans were receiving disability benefits for the condition. The claims of sleep apnea among Veterans are so rampant that several politicians have cried foul. Within the next year or two, the VA will have to begin implementing tougher examinations to determine the credibility of these claims.

But there is another sleep-related condition plaguing Veterans. Doctors at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, Washington are calling it trauma-associated Sleep Disorder.Military doctors began seeing these unique “nocturnal disruptive behaviors” as early as 2006. They describe them as nightmares or night terrors that they are able to act out, to the point where they have assaulted their significant others without waking.

Trauma-associated Sleep Disorder is similar to nightmares and night terrors that other Veterans have experienced after combat deployments and traumatic events. They, too, occur during rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep. But unlike these known sleep conditions, Trauma-associated Sleep Disorder is not accompanied by the body paralysis that is common with everyday REM sleep. This causes affected Veterans to thrash, punch, cry, shout and make other harmful gestures to themselves and anyone that might be sharing their bed.

The symptoms don’t exactly match the most common diagnoses for combat-related sleep issues, nightmare disorder or REM behavior disorder. Researches at Lewis-McChord are accumulating data and building a case for Trauma-associated Sleep Disorder to be included as its own diagnosis.

If you have experienced similar night time disorders, you should know that you are not alone. Please seek treatment and know that coming forward may help lead to a diagnosis and effective care for your disorder.

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Military Connection: New Veteran : By Debbie Gregory