Military, Veterans, PTSD and Sleep
What’s the Connection?
Helping Our Heroes Get the Sleep they Deserve
Research in the field of sleep medicine has often looked at specific groups of people who are put in high-risk situations when they are sleep deprived. Two such groups are our active duty military and veterans. When these men and women suffer from sleep disorders, such as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), the risks of accident, injury, even depression and anxiety increase. Cases of jaw clenching, popping jaw, grinding teeth, and ear pain linked to a response to PTSD should be screened for TMJ disorder as sleep apnea and TMD can many times co-exist. Cases of sleep apnea in the U.S. military have increased fivefold over the past decade ( Journal of Sleep Research ), which is why it’s important that active duty and veteran military members get proper screenings for sleep apnea and TMJ disorders. For those suffering from Obstructive Sleep Apnea, getting fitted with a comfortable Dental Sleep Appliance may be the solution that best fits their lifestyle and duties. TMJ disorders also respond effectively with a custom orthotic splint/device.
Why Sleep Disturbances are Frequent
According to a 2014 study in Military Medicine, about 80% of military personnel experience sleep disturbances, and the National Sleep Foundation reports that 85% of active duty military have been diagnosed with a sleep disorder, such as insomnia or sleep apnea or both. Those are staggering figures. For members of the military, sleep is short and often interrupted. In fact, the same Military Medicine study reported that military personnel sleep 6 hours or less at night.
Veterans are similarly sleep-deprived, although the causes can be somewhat different. In fact, a 2013 study in the journal, CHEST, found that sleep disturbances are one of the top complaints of veterans returning from deployment. This study found that insomnia and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) are frequently diagnosed together in military personnel referred for a sleep evaluation. This group was also more likely to be depressed, suffer from mild traumatic brain injury, pain, nightmares and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For veterans dealing with a sleep disorder and PTSD, the consequences can be damaging and even fatal. The American Sleep Apnea Association reports that the combination can lead to suicidal tendencies, chronic anxiety and stress, substance abuse and overall poor quality of life.
A Veteran Rediscovers a Good Night’s Sleep
Jerry, an Army Veteran and patient with Koala® Center for Sleep & TMJ Disorders had not slept well in years. When his wife became concerned about his snoring and heard him stop breathing during sleep, she was concerned. Jerry didn’t want to wear a mask on his face, and he didn’t see the point in getting a sleep test if his only option was a CPAP mask.
We hear Jerry’s story repeated all the time in our community, but there is hope! In 2006 the FDA approved Oral Appliance Therapy as an effective treatment for mild (5 – 14 AHI) to moderate (15 – 29 AHI) Obstructive Sleep Apnea, as well as for those who are CPAP Intolerant. There has even been success using Combination Therapy (both CPAP and Oral Appliance) to bring AHI levels into safer ranges for severe OSA (>30).
It has been five years since Jerry was fitted for his Koala Dental Sleep Appliance. Now he sleeps great, his health is great, and his wife is thrilled that the snoring has finally stopped. It was Jerry’s dinner conversation with a friend that connected him with Koala® Center for Sleep & TMJ Disorders and gave him hope that there was a treatment option that was comfortable and fit his lifestyle.
How can I get Treatment?
Treatment with custom dental appliances has been found to be comfortable, convenient and effective both in the field and at home. The dental appliance is now more easily available through “ Community Care ”, June 2019, as a veteran benefit. This program allows a veteran to get Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT) by a licensed general dentist trained in dental sleep medicine as a non-VA community provider when guidelines set by the Veterans Administration are met. Oral Appliance Therapy is considered medical treatment through most health insurances, Medicare and VA benefits.
While the government is working to increase “Community Care” benefits within the VA, getting proper screening for sleep & TMJ disorders is important. Ask your VA clinic for a Referral to Koala® Center for Sleep & TMJ Disorders or call (855) 977-0400 if you or a family member are concerned you might have sleep apnea or TMJ disorder. Our doctors are licensed general dentists trained in dental sleep medicine providing dental appliances for the treatment of sleep apnea and TMJ disorders.