Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and other sleep disorders affect approximately 22 million people in the U.S., and war veterans suffer from sleep disorders at a higher rate than non-veterans and civilians.

OSA claims by veterans have increased almost 150 percent since 2009, and approximately 90 percent of those veterans who collect disability benefits for this condition are considered “50 percent disabled.” Researchers who conducted a study at the University of South Carolina in Columbia reported that sleep disorders in veterans have “increased six-fold over 11 years.”

man_can't_sleepOSA, one of the most common sleep disorders, occurs when the upper airway becomes blocked while sleeping. The chest muscles and diaphragm are forced to work harder to get air into the lungs, and the body begins breathing with a loud snort or gasp. Most people who suffer from OSA aren't aware their sleep is being interrupted in this way. Ultimately, OSA can decrease the flow of oxygen to the body’s organs and cause a variety of medical problems.

Why Do Veterans Have a Higher Rate of Sleep Disorders?

Because veterans seem to experience OSA and other sleep disorders at a higher rate than others, researchers are trying to determine why. Some doctors and researchers believe:

  • Sleep disorders may be caused by repeat deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. Combat soldiers experience long-term exposure to higher levels of smoke, dust, and chemicals.  They spend extended periods of time in environments thought to contribute to sleep problems.
  • Sleep disorders may be caused by the stress and violence of war.

Researchers at Wayne State University School of Medicine have studied the link between the stress of war and OSA. The results, published in Psychosomatic Medicine in 2012, found that, “Those who left Iraq after the war began and suffered from mental disorders such as PTSD and depression, and self-rated their physical health worse than their actual health, were 43 times more likely than pre-Gulf War immigrants to report OSA.”

The lead investigator of the study, Bengt Arnetz, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., said, "It’s a known fact that the more exposure to violence you have, the more likely you are to report PTSD and depression; and the worse your self-rated health is, the more likely your actual health will suffer in 5–to–10 years.”

Thus, it may be the exposure to violence and the stress of war that contributes to or causes the high rate of sleep disorders in veterans.

We Can Help With Your Sleep Disorder Claim

The veterans' disability attorneys at Cuddigan Law help many veterans appeal claims for sleep disorders. Our firm cares about veterans who’ve spent time in combat and suffer from OSA and other sleep problems that interfere with their lives.

If you need help to appeal a denial, Cuddigan Law can help. Contact us today.


Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska
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