Starting by providing oral appliances for obstructive sleep apnea, Freedom to Sleep is a new organization that aims to help active and retired military personnel receive diagnosis and treatment for sleep disorders.

The prevalence of sleep disorders among service members and veterans is significant issue. According to the new non-profit Freedom to Sleep, 85.1% of active and retired military personnel suffer from a sleep disorder, and research shows a strong relationship between posttraumatic stress disorder and sleep-breathing disorders. Research also shows that untreated obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) cost the VA system and taxpayers almost $1.5 billion in 2013.

In addition, Freedom to Sleep states veterans are waiting 8 to 9 months for a sleep apnea diagnoses and may only be given CPAP as an option, despite oral appliance therapy being recommended as a firstline treatment option for active military personnel. Michael Krahe, PhD, president of Freedom to Sleep, says via e-mail, “This inefficiency is unacceptable and unsustainable. Freedom to Sleep was created to provide a higher standard of care for active and retired military personnel at no taxpayer expense.”

The Path to Freedom

Krahe says the first target of Freedom to Sleep will be managing OSA and its comorbid medical conditions in military populations and providing oral appliances (OA) for therapy. The group leverage its network of physicians and dentists to provide OAs at no charge to either the military member or taxpayer.

“We created Freedom to Sleep, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, as an entity that the sleep industry can rally around in order to affect real change for an underserved population,” says Krahe, who is also founder and executive director of The Academy of Clinical Sleep Disorders Disciplines. “In this field, organizations are separate and competing. Freedom to Sleep aims to bring everyone together in the common mission of serving a population that is largely ignored.”

To educate military personnel about sleep disorders, Freedom to Sleep will provide information and education through the group’s website (www.freedomtosleep.org); digital and print media to be televised and syndicated in periodicals and the Internet; and existing dental and medical networks. Active and retired military personnel will be able to find educational content as well as a participating provider on the website. Those in need of information can also connect with the group on Instagram @freedomtosleep.

How to Get Involved

Krahe encourages family and friends of military personnel who may have a sleep disorder to visit the organization’s website and have him or her seek diagnosis and treatment from a participating dentist or physician.

Additionally, Krahe says the new non-profit group is in need of financial contributions. “Freedom to Sleep will leverage our sleep industry partners for monetary and in-kind donations including oral appliances, overnight sleep studies, and lab-time to diagnose and manage sleep disorders in our active and retired military personnel,” Krahe explains. “Those generous dollars will give us the ability to grow and provide even more services to our active and retired military heroes.”

To operate independently of insurance companies, Freedom to Sleep depends on a network of healthcare providers as well as suppliers of equipment. For those interested in becoming part of this network as a treatment provider, equipment provider, or founding member of the group, e-mail info@freedomtosleep.org. In addition to helping military personnel who are “our countries greatest heroes,” Krahe says added benefits include tax-deductible financial contributions and in-kind gifts.

Sweeter Dreams for Military Personnel

In the future, Freedom to Sleep plans to branch out from OSA to help treat and diagnose other sleep disorders as well as other patient populations, such as police, frontline medical technicians, and firefighters. The group has also proposed an initial research study of between 30 to 50 veteran participants to show the important need for OSA treatment.

Krahe says, “Our first study will show how oral appliances can be an effective treatment in reducing the impact of OSA in an active (and retired) military population sample. This study will be led by JC Goodwin, DMD, D.ACSDD, of Prescott, AZ, and Jagdeep Bijwadia, MD, the medical director for SomnoMed.”

With plans for expansion, research studies, and even more people to help receive treatment for sleep disorders, the future for this non-profit organization certainly looks bright. Krahe says, “Our active and retired military personnel deserve a good night’s sleep. It’s the least we can do for those who stand to lose the most for our freedom. Get involved, make a contribution, and help Freedom to Sleep make a change.”

Cassandra Perez is associate editor of Sleep Review. CONTACT cperez@allied360.com