Sleep deprivation during military deployment is archaic, harmful, and institutionally unavoidable. It may aggravate, and even cause, PTSD in veterans returning from combat, reports Van Winkle’s.
The root of veterans’ chronic insomnia, and the PTSD that often develops alongside it, isn’t a disorder that can be cured as part of their post-discharge adjustment. It’s a symptom of larger problems that begin during deployment itself. The military indoctrinates healthy American adults into a “culture of sleep deprivation” that persists throughout their careers, says Shattuck, who works at the Naval Postgraduate Center in Monterrey, California. She says that deprivation hampers their performance and creates long-term health problems.
While the military recognizes that sleep is mission-critical — in 2012, the Army’s top health official, Surgeon-General Patricia Horoho, unveiled a new set of health priorities that she dubbed the “performance triad” of sleep, activity and nutrition — changes have been slow to come for boots-on-the-ground servicemen and -women.
In fact, sleep deprivation is so widespread in the Navy that Shattuck says it’s as though a giant scientific experiment is being staged in front of her.