Why did the man run around his bed all night? To catch up to his sleep.
My son thought this joke was so funny he repeated it for days. Although I chuckled every time he yelled the punch line at me, I couldn’t help but feel he was unconsciously talking about me. Years after the end of my 2006 deployment to Iraq I was still that person frantically trying to “catch up” to the rest I needed.
Like an estimated 50-70 million other Americans, and an estimated 75 percent of Veterans, I suffer from occasional bouts of insomnia and have trouble getting enough sleep. While images and thoughts from my time at war seldom invade my thoughts anymore, the pressures of work and family have more than taken their place.
The good thing is that insomnia can be addressed with professional care, exercise and good sleep hygiene. To make sure veterans have the tools they need to improve their quality of rest, VA has set up programs to combat sleep disorders stemming from PTSD or traumatic brain injuries, including sleep clinics located at VA health facilities across the country.
What I’ve seen is that as our lives become busier (and more connected) it can be hard to stay on top of our need for good rest. That’s why VA’s National Center for PTSD has partnered with DoD’s National Center for Telehealth and Technology to create the CBT-i Coach app.
Designed to help veterans get the right amount of rest, the free app can be used to track daily sleep and set up reminders and alarms to change bad bedtime habits. While CBT-i Coach is not a substitute for professional care or therapy, it is a good way to evaluate the way you look at sleep.
A feature I find incredibly useful is the guided meditation recordings. Although it may seem somewhat outside the mainstream at first, the narrator’s calming voice leads you through exercises that are a great way to let go of those pesky thoughts telling you to worry about something. I’ve used this feature every day since downloading the app to wind down after a long day.
While apps developed by VA can put you on the right track to a good night’s sleep Veterans are encouraged to contact their local VA health facility and inform their doctors of any sleep disorders they’re experiencing.