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PTSD and sleep disruption: Which to tackle when?

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Filed under: PTSD, Sleep
In this article, learn how to decide on the order in which to pursue treatment options when you’re experiencing both PTSD symptoms and sleep disruption.

PTSD and insomnia often are connected. And while there are effective treatments available for both, deciding the order in which to tackle them can feel like a challenge. Is it better to treat the PTSD first in the expectation that addressing the PTSD will improve your sleep? Or is it better to treat your sleep issues first to help with later treatment of PTSD? Or is it possible to do both at the same time? In this article, guest experts discuss these three options to inform your decision on how to seek treatment for PTSD and insomnia. Read more...

PTSD and sleep disruption: Available treatments

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: PTSD, Sleep
Highly effective behavioral treatments exist for both PTSD and sleep disruption. Learn more about the types of interventions available to resolve symptoms.

This article provides an overview of evidence-based treatments for PTSD and insomnia. The first article in this 3-part guest-authored series—“A double whammy”—explored the potential interrelationship between these two conditions. Not only is sleep disruption a common symptom of PTSD, but the two can interact in a cycle that can make both worse and can be hard to break. Understanding your treatment options and having more knowledge about available treatments can help you engage in productive discussions with your healthcare providers and make informed choices about treatment. Read more...

PTSD and sleep disturbance: A double whammy

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Learn how post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and insomnia work to create a vicious cycle.

Sleep problems and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are two common difficulties experienced by Service Members. They can share a complicated relationship, so for those experiencing or at risk for this double whammy, as well as for those treating patients, it’s important to understand how they can influence each other in a cycle. In a series of 3 articles, beginning with this one, guest experts explore the connection between PTSD and sleep, examine the different ways to approach treatment, and introduce evidence-based therapies available for both PTSD and insomnia. Read more...

10 effective sleep habits

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Learn about 10 effective strategies to optimize sleep.

Sleep is vital for health, performance, and well-being—and the better the sleep, the greater its benefits. That’s why proper sleep hygiene practices that promote optimal sleep duration and quality are important for everyone.

If you’re struggling to get quality sleep, try these 10 effective tips from the U.S. Army Performance Triad to help build healthier sleep habits. Read more...

The impact of sleep loss on performance

HPRC Fitness Arena: Total Force Fitness
Sleep is a basic building block of health. Learn how not getting enough sleep is likely to compromise performance optimization and impede your total fitness.

Sleep lays the foundation for the health and well-being of service members and their families, but for many, it’s hard to get enough sleep to maintain optimal performance. Sleep loss impacts many domains of optimal functioning—whether you’re at home, at work, or on a mission. For example, trying to drive a vehicle on an empty tank of fuel isn’t a good idea, but many people routinely “operate” themselves on little or no sleep. In general, sleep deprivation can compromise your cognitive function, ability to manage emotions and handle stress, relationships with others, and physical and nutritional conditioning. Read more...

“Screen time” impacts dream time

Your “screen time” might be impacting your sleep. Learn how to reduce the harmful effects of blue light and technology.

Time spent with smartphones, tablets, and computers can impact your ability to get healthy sleep. The primary culprit is exposure to blue light that’s emitted from all electronic devices. Using them at night can disrupt your natural circadian rhythm and suppress the secretion of melatonin, a powerful sleep hormone. When your eyes are exposed to artificial light, you might feel more awake when you should be getting ready to wind down. Try these tips to minimize the impact of blue light:

  • Set a “2-hour” rule. Turn off handheld devices and televisions at least 2 hours before bedtime. And dim the lights at home. Try to avoid lying in bed and scrolling social media and email before bedtime too. If you happen to read something stress-inducing or upsetting, your day might end on a negative note. Try reading a book, journaling, or reflecting on something you feel grateful for instead.
  • Block the blue. If you can’t avoid electronic devices before bed, some tools can help offset blue-light exposure. Many mobile devices come equipped with blue-light reducing functions already installed. You also can purchase blue-light blocking glasses with amber lenses. Or download software that adjusts the light on your screen, depending on the time of day and your location.
  • Use light wisely. Not all light exposure is bad. Head outside into real sunlight, especially when it’s early, so you can sleep better at night. Leverage blue-light exposure appropriately during the day, if possible. It can boost your energy and readiness, increase alertness, and enhance cognitive function and mood.

Screens and devices are unavoidable. Still, they’re often an important part of daily life. Understanding their effects on sleep can help you choose how and when to make best use of technology. To learn more about blue-light exposure, visit the Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) web page.

Make sleep-bank “deposits”

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Mind-body, Sleep
More sleep generally is a good thing, and you can bank some in advance.

Unless something is “off” with your health, it’s hard to get too much sleep. But “banking” extra sleep can improve your performance.

Be sure to get some extra sleep in advance, especially if you’re heading out on a mission—where performance really matters—or about to endure a stretch of sleep deprivation. It’s unclear how much extra sleep you need to perform your best. But some evidence suggests those who sleep approximately 9–10 hours nightly for one week—before any situation involving performance or sleep deprivation—perform well. And those who bank extra sleep before a sleep-deprivation event tend to bounce back quicker during recovery time.

What about extreme sleepiness? If you’re unable to wake up or stay awake after you’ve had plenty of sleep, you might be experiencing hypersomnia. Make sure to consult your healthcare provider.

Waking up after sleep cycles is overrated

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Mind-body, Sleep
Do you need to wake up at the end of a sleep cycle to get the full benefits of sleep? Learn more about sleep cycles.

When you wake up at the end of a sleep cycle, you initially feel rested and fresh. If you wake up before a sleep cycle finishes, you’ll probably feel groggy. However, you still get the benefits of that sleep. Here’s how it works: There are 5 stages of brain activity in one sleep cycle. And each cycle lasts about 90–120 minutes. You fall asleep during the earlier stages.

Next, you experience deep, restful sleep. Your heart rate and breathing slow down during these stages, while your body remains still. Your brain is most active during the final sleep stage. As you dream, your eyes move under your eyelids in rapid eye movement (REM). If you wake up during these later stages, you’ll likely feel groggy. You’ll feel more rested waking up at the end of a sleep cycle (ideally in the morning, after several sleep cycles). Or you can feel refreshed waking up after a 20–30 minute nap (before you enter deep sleep).

Sleeping 8–9 hours every day is important—however it happens. And you can shake off any grogginess or “sleep inertia” if you take 15–30 minutes to fully awaken. Standing upright and spending time in light—ideally daylight—can help! As long as you have enough time to fully overcome sleep inertia, you might find that the benefits of a little extra sleep are worth it.

Don’t worry about getting enough deep sleep or REM sleep. Trust your body! It has an amazing ability to recuperate when you catch up on sleep. And it will quickly fall into whatever stage of sleep you need most.

Sleep Awareness Week

Filed under: Health, Napping, Sleep
Sleep Awareness Week is March 6-13! Take this week to learn how healthy sleep can improve safety and performance.

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) is making sure everyone knows about the importance of sleep. A balanced lifestyle includes proper nutrition, physical fitness, and healthy sleep. A good night’s rest can especially improve your performance on-duty and off-duty.

HPRC offers many resources to help you learn about sleep, assess your own rest patterns, and improve your sleep habits. Also be sure to check out NSF's site, where you can download helpful sleep tips, an infographic with ideas on how to “celebrate” Sleep Awareness Week, and additional healthy-sleep tools.

Teens need their sleep!

Filed under: Sleep, Teens
Teens often have trouble getting enough sleep, yet they need more than adults.

It’s a fact: Teens need more sleep than adults. While most adults require a minimum of 7–8 hours of shut-eye, teens need 9 or more hours. (Newborns sleep 16–18 hours, preschoolers 11–12 hours, and school-age kids 10+ hours.)

However, most teens tend to sleep only 7.4 hours on school nights. Middle- and high-school students also have different sleep cycles from adults, making it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m. most nights. Homework, exams, sports, and other extracurriculars—even changes such as daylight savings time—can also throw your teen’s snooze schedule off-kilter. Does your teen crave screen time late at night? Blue light from computers, tablets, and cell phones can throw off their sleep cycles too. Plus, tuning into a recent text or social media post can get the brain going, which can also make it hard to fall asleep.

Teens’ body clocks can cause them to go to bed late and sleep late in the morning. Added to this, early school start times make it difficult for teens to get enough sleep. If possible, ask your local school officials about later start times, or consider finding schools with later start times. Students who attend schools that start later have:

  • More weeknight sleep
  • Less daytime sleepiness
  • Fewer concentration problems
  • Better attendance
  • Improved academic performance
  • Fewer car accidents

For more information, you can visit the National Sleep Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

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