Service and Sleep: Treating U.S. Veterans

Nov 11, 2020 | Blog, Health, Veterans

The hard reality is that many veterans face significant medical and wellness challenges after returning home. One glaring and often overlooked issue contributing to their health struggles is sleep maladies. Not only are many sleep disorders under-diagnosed but, even after becoming aware of a condition, finding and getting an appointment at a sleep care center can be extremely difficult. 

Here Are The Numbers: There are roughly 18.2 million veterans in the United States and only 1,243 VA health care facilities. This equals 1 health care facility for every 14,641 vets. This imbalance translates to extended wait times of around 17.7 days for them to be seen at a general health care site. This ratio worsens when looking at the wait time for VA-related sleep care centers and vets often have to visit a general health care site first before they can be referred to a certified sleep care center. 

Making Matters Worse

Quality sleep matters because lack thereof can exacerbate existing health problems commonly experienced by veterans. This includes mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression which impact veterans disproportionately, given 41% are diagnosed with a mental health or behavior adjustment disorder (with depression being the leader among them). This represents a dangerous cycle where pre-existing conditions can contribute to poor sleep and poor sleep can worsen pre-existing conditions. This type of loop is alarming and urgent due to the fact that there are 88,000 deaths each year from issues related to depression alone. 

Pain and Sleep

Mental health and behavioral disorders aren’t the only health areas exasperated by poor sleep. A similar trend exists with another common issue veterans suffer with: chronic pain. The U.S. National Library of Medicine reported in one study that 82% of veterans cited suffering from chronic pain as opposed to only 21% of Americans in the general population. Similar to depression, pain and poor sleep have a toxic relationship where one can feed the other. With pain keeping many veterans from being able to receive restful and regenerative sleep, additional health problems are often given fertile ground to sprout and be added into the equation. 

The Pharmaceutical Response

Current medical solutions often lean on prescription drugs to treat many of the health complications weighing on veterans. For example, the most common treatment for depression is Paxil or Zoloft at a recommended dosage of 50 to 200mg per day. However, a large proportion of veterans also suffer from substance use disorders (SUDs), meaning prescription drugs add risk and can be a less than optimal treatment method. The downfalls of this partial solution are compounded by dangers of over-medication and drug dependence. In 2018 alone, there were an estimated 5,064 drug overdose deaths from antidepressants. The same threats exist for chronic pain treatments as opioids are often prescribed and bring with them the risk of substance abuse and sinking into the national opioid epidemic. 

Addressing the Core Issue

Many medical professionals agree many health issues could be resolved, minimized, or outright avoided by improved diet, exercise, relaxation, and sleep. Somnology differs from the existing industry responses by working directly with patients to address a core pillar of human wellness, sleep, with Somnology’s SLaaS (Sleep Lab as a Service) program. 

Here’s How It Works: Veterans can receive a sleep diagnosis and care from wherever they are, without any commute or wait times and avoid the exposure to COVID-19 that is inherent with in-person doctor visits. Veterans wear Somnology’s patented SomnoRing™ to get a simplified reading on key health factors such as oxygenation levels, heart rate, and heart rate variation. Then, they’ll receive a plain-English sleep assessment giving them insights into the quality of their sleep and what they can do to improve it. Equipped with this information, patients can arrange a virtual telehealth appointment with a board-certified sleep coach via the platform to discuss their sleep character and ways to get better and more restful sleep. And, if still desired, Somnology can refer the patient to the nearest sleep facility. One of the best parts of this offering as an enterprise solution is that Somnology’s services are Medicare-deductible. 

Somnology deeply cares about U.S. vets, respects what they have given this country, and wants to be a part of making their lives here at home easier, healthier, and more joyous. If you’d like to peek behind the curtain and see more about how Somnology is partnering with the VA to serve our nation’s best, venture here or click on the “Veterans” link at the top menu.