Living with insomnia

22 March 2019
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According to the NHS, one third of Brits will experience insomnia at some point in their lives. But insomnia is especially prevalent in military personnel, often impacting those who have experienced active combat.

The power of sleep is often underestimated however sleep disorders such as insomnia are detrimental to everyday wellbeing. Marked by the difficulty to fall asleep and stay asleep, insomnia contributes to daytime dysfunction and poor health, affecting both the physical and mental capacity for work.


Causes and effects

Insomnia can be caused by irregular sleep patterns in the military or adjustment to civilian life after leaving the military. Often occurring during the aftermath of a military injury, insomnia is closely linked to prescription drugs, chronic pain or mental health conditions such as PTSD.

Insomnia is classified as chronic when lasting for over one month but can cause low energy, irritability and depression within days. While adults require 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, military personnel can face many challenges in achieving this standard, including:

  • Difficulty getting to sleep
  • Waking up multiple times in the night
  • Laying awake during the night
  • Waking up early, unable to get back to sleep
  • Difficulty napping despite fatigue
  • Nightmares

One of the most common effects of insomnia is vision problems, and insomniacs often report experiencing double vision, blurry vision and the sensation of seeing things in slow motion. As well as general tiredness, fatigue from insomnia comes in all forms including muscle fatigue and mental fatigue. Hallucinations, migraines and severe anxiety can also occur.


Treatment

Changing sleeping habits and implementing a routine is an effective way to reduce insomnia. Planning what time to go to sleep and setting an alarm to wake up is the starting point to determining a regular routine.

Keeping a sleep diary may also help with this, as well as uncovering any unhealthy sleeping habits and underlying reasons for insomnia. It’s vital to send the body signals that it’s time to wind down, however some activity can prevent this, for example:

  • Alcohol - drinking before bed means that the more restful REM stage of sleep is skipped.
  • Caffeine - whilst caffeine takes just 15 minutes to have stimulating effects, it takes 6 hours for just half of caffeine consumed to leave our system.
  • Devices - the blue light from phones, tablets and laptops suppresses our ability to produce sleep hormone, melatonin, tricking us into staying awake.


While studies have found that more than 2 in 5 veterans experience sleeping problems, there are a wide variety of treatment options available depending on the cause. Visit your GP to find the right treatment for you, as options are varied and include medications, psychotherapy, and relaxation techniques.

Charities such as the Medical Advisory Service offer helplines ran by trained nurses who can help and advise, whilst apps such as Sleepstation (available to buy or free through the NHS) are clinically proven to treat insomnia using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

If you are suffering from chronic nightmares, insomnia or any associating conditions, it’s important to know that you are not alone. Forces personnel with serious disorders can be helped to live fulfilling lives, but appropriate compensation can be crucial to accessing this help.


Our specialist lawyers are here to guide you through your available options. Get in touch with our team to see how we can help, by emailing MilitaryEnquiries@wilkinchapman.co.uk outside of office hours, or calling our freephone number 0800 046 2567 on weekdays between 9am and 5pm.

This article has been provided as information only and should not be regarded as specific advice to your needs. Please note that Wilkin Chapman are not endorsed by any of the products or services mentioned.


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