Tired soldiers taking part in JBLM sleep study

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. -- For many people, getting consistent, solid sleep can be tough. Some new research at Joint Base Lewis-McChord focuses on fixing that problem for soldiers.

Sleep problems can be very complex, but experts say one concept is very simple: If you improve someone's sleep, you can improve their overall quality of life.

Three deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan have done a number on Capt. David Raines.

"Even if I am tired, the actually falling asleep part is difficult," he said.

Raines volunteered for the sleep study at JBLM, which is searching for ways to get better rested, become less of a snoring machine and fight agonizing fatigue.

"Going home after a long day of work, sitting at the red light, I realized just for a second or two, I dozed off," Raines said.

For troops coming home from combat zones, good sleep can be elusive.

'The most common diagnosis that we made is sleep apnea. Fifty-five percent of our soldiers had sleep apnea. The next most common diagnosis was insomnia," said Lt. Col. Vincent Mysliwiec, Madigan Army Medical Center's chief of sleep medicine.

Mysliwiec said breathing machines can help with apnea, but insomnia has all sorts of factors for soldiers, from post traumatic stress disorder to depression to anxiety.

"Normally, what we would expect is that individuals with sleep disorders would sleep a little bit longer. In fact, our solders were sleeping 5.74 hours per night, which would be classified as a short sleep duration," Mysliwiec said.

Millions of Americans lean on sleeping pills for relief, which the Army does not encourage. Mysliwiec said changing behaviors and implementing a regular, regimented sleep practice is crucial.

If you get up at 6 a.m. and go to bet at 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, you should do the same thing on the weekend, Mysliwiec said.

The Army is paying more and more attention to troops not getting enough sleep and the impacts it can have. Experts say people can function without getting enough sleep, but not at their highest level.