Imagine a scenario where you fear sleep so much you will do anything - really anything - to avoid it - at all costs. You will drink cup after cup of coffee, Red Bull and Coke; play video games all night long, in an effort to delay inevitable sleep. You'll stay up for 18 hours straight, feeling the jitters that come with enormous amounts of caffeine, eventually unable to fight anymore. When you do fall asleep, the nightmares come, and they are so violent that you punch a hole in your headboard or worse, hit your bed partner - while living through the nightmare that sleep brings. Iraqi soldiers coming home are living this nightmare.
Walter Reed Army Medical Center has published reports that indicate that sleep and wakefullness issues top the list of complaints of soldiers coming home from this latest war. Thirty-six percent of soldiers returning home from Iraq report serious daily struggles with sleep. They don't want to sleep because they know they will re-live horrors they would rather forget. So PTSD - post traumatic stress disorder - controls their sleep patterns and ultimately impacts their physical health. And soldiers trade the enemies of war, for the new enemy - sleep.
And the worst part? This is not a population that is a good candidate for drug therapy, because many of them already struggle with, or are ripe for substance abuse. Support groups and psycotherapy can help, but this therapy usually requires a long term commitment that many cannot make. So they live a daily struggle most of us cannot imagine. And they live caffeine fix to caffeine fix until finally they can no longer fight sleep. And sleep again becomes their nightmare.
Published On: August 07, 2008