THURSDAY, Jan. 31 (HealthDay News) -- When you think of all the challenges that soldiers face, poor sleep might not top the list. But sleep problems and lack of sleep are common among active-duty U.S. military personnel, according to a new study.
The findings show the need for the military to make changes in sleep practices and in attitudes about sleep, the researchers said.
They looked at 725 active-duty members of the U.S. Army, Air Force and Navy, and found that 85 percent of them had a sleep disorder. The most common was obstructive sleep apnea (51 percent), followed by insomnia (25 percent).
The participants slept an average of only about 5.7 hours per night, and 42 percent of them reported sleeping five hours or less per night. Most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep a night to feel alert and well-rested the next day, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
The researchers also found that about 58 percent of the participants had one or more medical conditions. Of service-related illnesses, the most common were depression (23 percent), anxiety (17 percent), post-traumatic stress disorder (13 percent) and mild traumatic brain injury (13 percent).
Nearly 25 percent of the military personnel were taking medications for pain, according to the study, which was published in the February issue of the journal Sleep.
Those with PTSD were twice as likely to have insomnia, and those with depression or pain syndrome were about 1.5 times more likely to have insomnia than study participants without these conditions.
"While sleep deprivation is part of the military culture, the high prevalence of short sleep duration in military personnel with sleep disorders was surprising," study author Dr. Vincent Mysliwiec, chief of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash., said in a journal news release.
"The potential risk of increased accidents, as well as long-term clinical consequences of both short sleep duration and a sleep disorder, in our population is unknown," Mysliwiec added.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about sleep and sleep disorders.