By Lt Col Jeff Laible, 183rd Chaplains Office
/ Published August 08, 2011
Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport, Illinois -- Feeling a little sleep deprived these late summer days? If you answered yes, you are in good company. A recent study conducted by the American Psychiatric Association examined the sleep patterns of 69 service members who returned from Iraq and Afghanistan between 2006 and 2008. The study concluded that there is a "higher incidence of people complaining about sleep problems after they return from combat, but there does not appear to be a connection between Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and obstructive sleep apnea in combat veterans."
Having deployed overseas myself (more than a few times) I know from personal experience that returning to a "normal" sleep routine (once I arrive back in CONUS) takes time and patience. Reestablishing normal sleep patterns myself seems directly connected to the time it takes to reintegrate back into life here in the United States. I have often found that while my physical body has arrived home (after a deployment) - I get through jet lag and recover from the long overseas flight and days of travel, but arriving home mentally and emotionally takes much longer. It requires a significant deal of patience on my part. Working through the mental and emotional reintegration adjustment requires that I get some additional rest, giving myself permission to slow down, unwind, and chill-out as much as possible. Having no big expectations of myself or others the first week or so after I return from a deployment helps the reintegration process to begin.
Reintegration is a process - not a "one time, let's get this over with in a few days......". Your deployment has changed you, and while you were gone your family, friends and coworkers have also changed. It takes time to reconnect and rebuild the bond that time and distance loosened while you were deployed. Rebuilding that bond with family, friends and coworkers will not happen within a few weeks or maybe even a few months. Be patient with yourself and with others. Give yourself some extra space during the days, weeks and months following the deployment. It takes work and determination to reestablish healthy life patterns: getting the right amount of physical exercise, eating healthy foods, time to relax/rest, time to connect with your deployment comrades, and the right amount of sleep.
Equally important is establishing time to connect with God or your higher power. Deployments can really zap your spiritual, emotional and physical energy especially if you have been in a combat zone or have worked with the wounded warriors. You might feel spiritually and emotionally bankrupt; that is a normal response to having served in a war zone. Time, prayer, rest, physical exercise, and a trusted friend, pastor, chaplain or spiritual advisor can be of great benefit in reestablishing ones spiritual life.
Feeling a little sleep deprived these late summer days? If you answered yes, you are in good company. Your fellow airmen or soldier might be feeling the very same way. Remember, reintegration takes time and patience - and some much needed sleep.