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Physical sleeping environment is related to insomnia risk and measures of readiness in US army special operations soldiers


Background US military service members have characteristically poor sleep, even when ‘in garrison’ or at one’s home base. The physical sleeping environment, which is often poor in military-provided housing or barracks, may contribute to poor sleep quality in soldiers. The current study aimed to assess whether the sleeping environment in garrison is related to sleep quality, insomnia risk and military readiness.

Methods Seventy-four US army special operations soldiers participated in a cross-sectional study. Soldiers were queried on their sleeping surface comfort and the frequency of being awakened at night by excess light, abnormal temperatures and noise. Subjective sleep quality and insomnia symptoms were also queried, via the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index and Insomnia Severity Index, respectively. Lastly, measures of soldier readiness, including morale, motivation, fatigue, mood and bodily pain, were assessed.

Results Soldiers reporting temperature-related and light-related awakenings had poorer sleep quality higher fatigue and higher bodily pain than soldiers without those disturbances. Lower ratings of sleeping surface comfort were associated with poorer sleep quality and lower motivation, lower morale, higher fatigue and higher bodily pain. Each 1-point increase in sleeping surface comfort decreased the risk for a positive insomnia screen by 38.3%, and the presence of temperature-related awakenings increased risk for a positive insomnia screen by 78.4%. Those living on base had a poorer sleeping environment than those living off base.

Conclusion Optimising the sleep environment—particularly in on-base, military-provided housing—may improve soldier sleep quality, and readiness metrics. Providers treating insomnia in soldiers should rule out environment-related sleep disturbances prior to beginning more resource-intensive treatment.

  • sleep medicine
  • pain management
  • depression & mood disorders

Data availability statement

Data are property of the U.S. Department of Defense. Data may be shared upon reasonable request after the establishment of an institution-to-institution business agreement.

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