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Combat Vets Display Severe Sleep Disorders

But their tech savvy helps them use online programs as well as drugs to help problem

TUESDAY, June 10 (HealthDay News) -- Insomnia among U.S. combat veterans returning from Iraq is as severe as that seen in patients with chronic insomnia, according to University of Pittsburgh researchers.

They compared 14 vets with post-deployment adjustment disorders to 14 insomnia patients and 14 good sleepers, and found that the vets displayed significantly more severe disruptive nocturnal behaviors, such as nightmares and body movements, than people in the other two groups.

Insomnia complaints among the vets were as severe as complaints among insomnia patients, and the vets had significantly worse sleep quality than good sleepers.

"These findings highlight the urgent need for sleep-focused assessments and treatments in this new group of combat-exposed military veterans," principal investigator Anne Germain said in a prepared statement.

The findings were expected to be presented Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, in Baltimore.

A study presented at the meeting Monday concluded that a combination of pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatment for insomnia may be effective among veterans returning from Iraq.

The study included five male veterans, aged 25 to 37, who'd had insomnia for one to five years. All of them spent 15 to 23 months in Iraq over one to three deployments. Researchers found that the veterans preferred relaxation therapy and pharmacological treatment followed by stimulus control instructions, sleep restriction therapy, mindfulness-based intervention, and sleep education and hygiene.

Electronic approaches such as MP3 files and the Internet were the preferred non-pharmacological treatment delivery methods, using four weeks of 30- to 60-minute treatment in the evening or with 24-hour access. Three veterans took daily sleep diaries home, and two completed the diaries using a daily voice mail service.

"These preferences may reflect the technology savvy of this new era of veterans. An Internet-based, non-medication intervention could supplement the pharmacological treatment available in routine care," study author Dana R. Epstein, of the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care System, said in a prepared statement.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about insomnia.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Academy of Sleep Medicine, news releases, June 9, 2008

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