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What Military Personnel Should Know About Sleep Apnea

Getting quality sleep is important in any profession — but in the military, where the ability to think clearly and act decisively can literally have life or death consequences, it is vital. Unfortunately, many military service members suffer from obstructive sleep apnea and other sleep disorders that keep them from getting the quality rest they need.

Even more problematic, the number of military personnel receiving a diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea has dramatically risen in recent years.

Apnea and Military Disability

Army service member

Obstructive sleep apnea describes an incidence in which the breathing passages are temporarily blocked during sleep, cutting off oxygen to the brain. The body recognizes this and will force the individual to wake up gasping for breath. The person with sleep apnea will often fall back asleep shortly after waking up, and may not even realize their sleep was interrupted when they get up in the morning.

However, these events keep you from getting the deep sleep that is necessary to be fully refreshed and revitalized in the morning. Those with obstructive sleep apnea suffer from chronic fatigue that can leave them feeling irritable and cause trouble concentrating. Those with sleep apnea are more likely to experience accidents while working or driving. They are also at a higher risk of serious health conditions related to poor sleep, including elevated blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

Obstructive sleep apnea is so serious that the VA considers sleep apnea patients 50 percent disabled — a more severe rating than an amputee who uses a prosthetic limb. Quite simply, sleep apnea can dramatically harm job performance because of its myriad side effects. Veterans who need to use a CPAP machine who developed their condition during their service are entitled to significant disability compensation to help pay for treatments and other expenses.

Rising Sleep Apnea Rates

soldier with children

While it has been known for several years that sleep apnea rates were on the rise among military personnel, a new study shows just how serious this problem is. Research on U.S. service members conducted from 2005 to 2019 saw rates of sleep apnea increase by 30 times, while insomnia increased 45-fold.

Speaking on the findings of the study, sleep expert and retired Army colonel Dr. Vincent Mysliwiec noted, “These findings are concerning because service members across the military branches are otherwise healthy and have similar physical requirements. Their sleep disorders developed and were diagnosed while they were in the military.”

Notably, those who had the greatest risk for obstructive sleep apnea or insomnia were higher ranking enlisted soldiers, men, individuals over 40, married personnel, and white service members. Those enlisted in the Army were also found to be more likely to have sleep disorders than their counterparts in other military branches.

In their findings, the study authors noted that the increased prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea in Army personnel could be partially linked to that branch’s education program on healthy sleep, which could have helped some personnel know when to seek medical assistance.

However, they also believe that longer and more frequent deployments — particularly to Iraq and Afghanistan — in recent years could be behind the spike in sleep disorders. Prolonged deployments have been linked to a greater risk of other medical issues, such as PTSD.

The Importance of CPAP Equipment

CPAP maskIf you’ve been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, obtaining a CPAP machine is an absolute must. A CPAP machine provides a steady flow of air throughout the night to keep your breathing passages open. With a consistent supply of oxygen, you won’t wake up in the middle of the night. You will even stop snoring — something your spouse will greatly appreciate.

In addition to the machine itself, you will need to get a mask that is an appropriate fit for your facial structure and your breathing habits. For example, a full face mask is essential for anyone who breathes through their mouth during sleep. If you breathe through your nose at night and find the large size of a full face mask to feel claustrophobic, you will likely be better served with a nasal mask or nasal pillows. A quality fit is essential to prevent air leaks and skin irritation.

Because a CPAP machine is a piece of medical equipment, you must receive a prescription from a licensed medical professional to buy one. This professional diagnosis is also necessary for you to receive disability compensation from the VA.

As part of writing your prescription for CPAP therapy, your sleep specialist will also determine the appropriate air pressure level for your treatment. They can also work with you to figure out which size and type of mask will provide the best fit.

Get the Care You Need

Whether you are active, reserve, or retired military, getting quality sleep is essential for your overall health and well-being. The extreme exhaustion and fatigue that result from obstructive sleep apnea can influence your concentration and decision-making abilities, while also putting you at greater risk for heart disease, depression, and more.

Here at No Insurance Medical Supplies, we offer a wide range of CPAP machines to help you keep obstructive sleep apnea in check. We offer the latest models from leading brands like Philips Respironics and ResMed, many at significantly discounted prices. Financing is also available to make this essential equipment even more affordable.

While your military service has the potential to increase your risk for sleep apnea, it doesn’t have to result in permanently decreased sleep quality. With a CPAP machine from No Insurance Medical Supplies, you can get the rest you need — and deserve.


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