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Study to examine insomnia caused by stress of war

Taylor_Daniel_psychology%20prof.jpgDuring deployments, military personnel often work rapidly changing schedules, sleep irregularly and awaken quickly  to respond to attack or an emergency. Erratic sleep patterns usually continue after service, which leads to insomnia.

Daniel Taylor, left, associate professor of psychology, has received a $1.16 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to determine the effectiveness of online and in-person cognitive behavioral therapy to treat active duty military personnel experiencing sleep problems.

The study is in conjunction with the South Texas Research Organizational Network Guiding Studies on Trauma and Resilience, or STRONG STAR. STRONG STAR is a consortium that is developing and evaluating early interventions for the detection, prevention and treatment of combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder in active-duty military personnel and recently discharged veterans.

Taylor says that insomnia is a strong risk factor for post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, substance abuse and suicide. Treatment of insomnia may improve sleep and these conditions, he said.

Cognitive behavioral therapy of insomnia may be preferred over medication in a military environment since, Taylor said, the potential side effects of medications – grogginess and slowed cognitive processing and reaction time – "can be negative for military personnel.   

By next spring, the researchers will recruit 189 Fort Hood soldiers with chronic insomnia - defined as sleeping poorly at least three nights a week for a month or longer - who will be randomly assigned to receive three sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy over six weeks. Half of the military personnel will receive the therapy from clinicians at Fort Hood, while the other half will receive the training via a website.

In a previous study of civilians with insomnia, Taylor and his research team discovered that cognitive behavioral therapy led to significant improvements in sleep efficiency, with the research subjects' use of sleep medication declining from 87.5 percent before therapy to 54 percent afterward, although the subjects weren't required to stop taking their medication.

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