By Brad Krause

According to the VA, statistics indicate roughly one in five adults in the United States live with a mental illness, and1.7 million of those are veterans. Many veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In turn, PTSD generally comes with chronic sleep problems, including insomnia and nightmares, which can potentially escalate over time. And this is just the tip of the iceberg with so many other sleep disorders that could affect veterans.

 Thankfully, there is much you can do to address your sleep and health concerns.

 Change your sleep environment.

 Great slumber starts with a sleep environment that’s optimized for the purpose. Indeed, there’s no dearth of methods that can make your bedroom most conducive to sleep and restfulness, running the gamut from lighting to temperature to sound.

 You might be surprised that red can make or break your z-time and that a cooler temperature (60 to 68 degrees) can help optimize your sleep. As far as noise, experts say to think pink these days, which Time points out might even help boost your memory. You can add a sound machine to your room, or if you already have Alexa, pink noise is among her skills.

Another way to improve your sleep environment is to make changes in your home that limit stress and help you relax. Deep cleaning and decluttering your house can lower tension and give your mood a boost which can help come bedtime.

It may also benefit you to size up your mattress, especially if you have a bedmate whose movement unintentionally disturbs your slumber - or if you simply want more sleep space. Going from a queen- to a king-sized mattress, for example, is great if your current mattress is too narrow for you and your partner to have ample personal space. Apart from size, you will also want to consider whether you need a soft or firm mattress. As a rule of thumb, always compare the benefits of different brands.

 Consider your diet.

Diet is also an important factor when it comes to getting quality sleep. While it’s only common sense to avoid sleep-disrupting food and drink that contains caffeine and sugar before bedtime, there’s actually more to the science than that.

Per Johns Hopkins Medicine, it’s important to avoid spicy and acidic food at least three hours before bedtime as this can cause sleep-disrupting heartburn or indigestion. Ditto with high-protein foods, which take longer to digest. On the other hand, complex carbohydrates trigger the sleep hormone serotonin, while melatonin, another sleep-inducing hormone, may be triggered by food such as tart cherries.

Choose to get help.

 The VA has several initiatives in place designed to safeguard the mental health and well-being of veterans. Such programs address a broad range of concerns, including sleep disorders, making them valuable resources for struggling veterans.

Beyond the VA, the vet community has also rallied to provide free services that are beneficial to those in need. Veterans for Foreign Wars, for instance, is committed to providing outreach and helpful programs for veterans. It’s important to get to know the many options available to you in order to get the right kind and amount of support you may need as you re-enter society.

There’s little doubt that your time spent in service was challenging—perhaps so much so that challenges have manifested beyond your tour. While you simply can’t sleep on your troubles, it can be even more troublesome when the respite of slumber is also unavailable to you. So make use of these measures to help improve your sleep.


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