For those suffering with TBI or PTSD, how your sleep has been affected?
We asked the above question of veterans we know and here are some responses that perhaps many can relate to…
From SGT David Petree:
I got this CPAP with a full face mask a while back . It helps don`t have as much walking in the bed. My temper is not always as Short . But it dose not help with the lack of pan chess . Am afraid to let any body shier my bed. Not enough room to avoid a full length arm swing. Being stressed out dose not help with sleep !! It keeps the mind running full out, so one can not sleep . then when one wants to sit & talk that is when one passes out , in the middle of the day , driving down the road !! (used with permission)
MSG David Johnson:
I have a 100% PTS rating, but due to my back and neck injuries I’ve taken pain meds for the past 10 years. During this time my sleep had been shortened due to waking in pain. I also take meds to help me sleep.
Since the VA is taking pain meds away my sleep is shortened even more, but I still do have dreams/nightmares on occasion, but not often.
So PTS has affected my sleep in that way. (used with permission)
Other anonymous responses:
“Sleep, what sleep? Sleeping aids provided by VA don’t even help. I’m up all night. Just can’t get any relief. If something is working for anyone please let me know, thanks.”
“I have night terror’s where I’ve been fighting in my sleep and my wife has had to yell my name to get me to come out of it. Thank God I’ve never hit my wife in one of those fits. When I got back from desert storm we were in Germany and a hydrogen plant in Hanau blew up the sound and shock wave sounded like a missle coming in. I dove under the bed and yelled incoming. I was looking for my gas mask and weapon.”
“In the early years I did not know why my sleep was being affected. But my family often told me of things I said and did that seemed impossible to me they would accuse me of such nonsense. I slept walked, I fell asleep with my eyes open, I would be awaken because the smell of the ship was in my nose and flashing infrared lights in my mind. The proper diagnosis was made and that is how I learned what I suffered from. In more recent years, as age has crept in, anxiety related to stress triggers my inability to sleep, the madness in the news that directly speaks to the safety of us all and our comrades still in war zones, the death numbers rising all over again. In addition medical evaluations that determined I needed sleep aides and a Bi-Pap machine were prescribed. Talk with your Primary Care Provider about your symptoms. That is the most reliable source for pinpointing any sleep abnormalities associated with TBI and PTSD.”
“My sleep has been all over the place. The only consistency is my sleep hasn’t been consistent over extended periods of time. I have times where I won’t sleep for 2 or 3 days in extreme cases. I can go for 2 or 3 months sleeping fine. Or I can have nightmares. 90% of the time I have nightmares that I don’t remember the next morning. My wife or dogs usually wake me up if they know I am having a bad nightmare, otherwise I wake up in a pool of sweat. I have used several sleep tracking apps/wristbands, the results when I have a nightmare looks like a roller coaster.
The nightmares I do remember are recurring for the most part. One recurring nightmare is my former squad leader coming down the stairs, sitting at my kitchen table and starting a conversation. Except he was KIA and in my dream I see him as I saw him last: in kit, covered in blood, and a hole in his skull. Another nightmare is I dream swarms of insects come out my smallpox scar. That one usually wakes me up pretty quickly.”
“I haven’t had 10 days of good sleep in 40+ years…”
“”Sleep”. What is that? It feels to me just another and quicker means of reliving things you rather not do at all in a situation where you probably can’t escape from. “Sleep” that thing that requires more and stronger “sleep” meds to get those hopeful three hours that have you more tired when you “wake up” than you were before you were “sleepy”.
If there was a “bank” that had in it’s vault this thing called “sleep” where you wouldn’t have to take ambien or anything like it, you would get a full eight hours with no nightmares, allow you to be more functional the next day, that “bank” could be Ft. Knox’s gold repository fortified to hell and back 30 times. I’d be in there and rob that place blind I want sleep….NATURAL FULL “SLEEP” that bad.
Until I find that “bank” with a treasure trove of “sleep”, I’m stuck with ambien, unisom, nyquil sleep, and hoping that I’ll get a solid three hours, and be able to go back to grab one or two more. I thought I knew sleep deprivation when doing things in the military. None of that has shit on the sleep deprivation brought on by a mind that won’t quit.”
“What’s sleep? I haven’t had a decent night sleep in 45 years.”
“I sleep for about two to three hours at a stretch throughout the night. If I have a bad dream or can’t go back to sleep I take half a lorazepam. The biggest problem is the way I wake up if someone comes in my room while I am asleep. Until just a few years ago, if my wife left the bedroom and came back in while I was asleep, I would jump out of bed and grab her (not in a loving way) until I woke up. This first happened on R&R when a hotel maid came into my room with laundry. While still asleep I jumped out of bed, leaped across the room and pinned her against the wall with my forearm on her neck while I was punching her. I was in Israel on 9/11 during the middle of the Intifada. I was sharing a room with my brother-in-law and that night I woke up straddling him and pummeling his face with my fists. It happens when I am awake too. Two years ago I was sitting at a diner counter. A man was behind me and something caused me to get up, swing around, grab him by the neck and cock my arm to punch him. Fortunately, I woke up before hurting him. Everyone in the diner gasped. The man had a buzzer so he could speak with a laryngectomy. They say the amygdila never forgets and I am perfect evidence to support that. I left RVN 50 years ago and still experience that creepy stuff. I often wonder if I am the only one.”
“I sleep great… for about 2 hours.
Then the same thing happens every night. Some permutation of what happened in a desert long ago…
I am very fortunate to get five hours of sleep in a night. Even more fortunate if I only wake up once.”
“What is sleep? I get a ton of just laying there trying to sleep and feeling tired all of the time. I doze often but quality R.E.M. Sleep is not happening as often as I would like. I happen to know that my son is expirencing the same problem.”
“It’s bad. Still have nightmares. Despite medication.”
“At first, I was lucky to get a few hours of sleep a night. With therapy and meds, I got around 7 or 8, so I was excited. Two years ago my family survived a traumatic experience and my sleeping went back to about five hours.”
“I ambian it up. On rare occasions I don’t need it but my mind is a marathon runner and drags my spirit with it. The worst is when I’m alone. But I try to keep good company when I can. Unfortunately that’s becoming hard to come by these days.”
“For the first 5-7 years after returning I was up in a cold sweat damn near nightly. For 3 years were my drinking was way out of control I swear I never slept. Since I quite drinking just over a year ago I still am troubled through the night with nightmares and waking up numerous times, but I typically take a deep breath, smile and go back to bed now. Instead of having to wash the bedding nightly from sweat (or vomit when drunk), I now just pull my fitted sheet back in place and all is good.”