Program helps soldiers adjust sleep habits - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Program helps soldiers adjust sleep habits

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Sgt. Natchuo Thomas takes part in a sleep program at Fort Campbell after returning from deployment. Sgt. Natchuo Thomas takes part in a sleep program at Fort Campbell after returning from deployment.

For soldiers just returning home from overseas, a good night's sleep can be hard to come by.

A new program at Fort Campbell is working to get a soldier's sleep patterns back on track.

Sgt. Natchuo Thomas recently got back from Afghanistan. He's been deployed four times over the past 13 years.

"If you're lucky, you get 3 to 4 hours of sleep," said Thomas.

There's no such thing as eight hours of sleep when you are deployed.

Coming home means struggling to get good sleep.

"I can't even drive to work," said Thomas. "Sometimes I ask my wife to drop me off at work."

After many restless nights, Thomas ended up at a sleep lab.

Dr. Bret Logan, the director of the sleep medicine program at Fort Campbell, said there's no such thing as "normal" when it comes to sleep patterns of a deployed soldier.

To start, for many soldiers, a "day's work" is done at night.

"It's a hostile place," said Logan. "We do everything we can to make it like home, so they have good areas of rest. If you are far forward deployed, infantry small squad or outpost, it can be very harsh conditions to sleep."

Another problem is the way the soldiers condition their bodies to respond while deployed.

"The body over time develops a high sympathetic nervous tone, keeps alert when asleep, which tends to mean less time in deep restful sleep and more time in shallow sleep," said Logan.

Logan said you need the deep sleep to recharge.

He said most soldiers readjust within 45-90 days of returning home.

Much of the readjustment is done through education and what's called relaxation training.

The goal is to help slow down the mind and brain before bed.

Other soldiers, like Thomas, may require time in the sleep lab.

Doctors showed us the preparation that goes into getting a soldier ready for the sleep test.

A soldier is hooked up to a computer so every movement and breath can be monitored during the night.

"This is a channel that listens to snore," said Logan about a chart.

The information then helps doctors pinpoint and treat more serious problems.

For Thomas, it was sleep apnea causing some of his problems.

He now uses what's called a CPAP mask to help him get good rest.

The soldier we showed you, now uses what's called a CPAP mask, to help him get good rest.

Thomas said it's already making a difference.

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