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Military Spouses May Be Vulnerable to Sleep Problems

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Military spouses face unique challenges, such as spending a lot of time away from their significant others and worrying about their well-being during deployment. They may also be at higher risk of sleep problems.

Researchers found that 44 percent of nearly 1,500 wives of military service members slept 6 hours or less per night, on average. 

This is higher than the nearly 35 percent of the general population in the U.S. who sleep less than the minimum recommended 7 hours per night, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Moreover, about 54 percent of the military wives in the study said that their daytime functioning was often impaired due to sleep problems. And 62 percent said they were tired during the day at least once or twice a week because of sleep loss, according to the results presented at SLEEP 2016: 30th Anniversary Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.

"These results are important because we know very little about sleep problems among military spouses. Promoting sleep health may be an important strategy for enhancing military families' adjustment in the post-deployment period," study author Wendy Troxel, a senior behavioral and social scientist at the RAND Corporation, said in a statement. "This is particularly relevant given that the past 14 years of protracted overseas combat have exacted an unprecedented toll on U.S. service members and their families."

The research was part of a larger study examining the well-being of military service members and their families. In the study, the researchers asked the female spouses of military service members to answer questions about their sleep habits and overall health, among other factors. The researchers also had access to information about the deployment history of the women's spouses.


The researchers found that, overall, the spouses of military services members who were deployed at the time of the study or who had been deployed in the past reported poorer sleep quality and greater daytime fatigue than the spouses of military members who had never been deployed.

But Troxel noted that the reasons behind these sleep problems are likely more complex than the stress directly related to the deployment of the military wives' partners.


"There are other characteristics of military life, including unpredictable work schedules, threatening training environments, high job demands, and frequent residential moves, that can really impact stress levels in the family and sleep," she said in an interview with Medscape Medical News.


If military spouses realize that they are not getting enough sleep, they should consult a doctor and practice good sleep habits, Troxel told For example, she recommends that they keep a regular sleep routine and steer clear of electronics shortly before going to bed.

"I think it's important for both service members and spouses to recognize the importance of sleep, and if they're experiencing poor sleep quality on a regular basis or experiencing significant fatigue that's interfering with daily functioning, that they speak to somebody about it," she adds. "Sleep affects every facet of our physical health and functioning, but also it impacts our relationship health and our ability to be supportive to our partners."


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