Researchers want to help Soldiers get good night's sleep
December 19, 2012
By David Vergun
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Dec. 19, 2012) -- Researchers from academia and the private sector are teaming up to study and improve the sleep quality of Soldiers through an online survey.
The survey is now available to active and reserve-component Soldiers, other service members, as well as veterans.
First, Soldiers take a 10-minute survey to describe their own sleep patterns and habits, according to Dan Frank, chief executive officer of VetAdvisor, the company that is partnering with Johns Hopkins University. He added that the information provided is considered confidential.
Those who take the survey are helping researchers determine which kinds of sleep aids and coaching might be most useful to Soldiers, he said. The survey can be taken online at www.vetsleep.org.
"Once Soldiers take the survey, we ask them if they would be willing to do a Quantified Self intervention," Frank said. "The Quantified Self approach uses technology to measure performance in daily life; things like how many steps you take a day using a pedometer, and other monitoring devices.
"We would then assign the Soldier to a sleep coach, a person trained in wellness and sleep hygiene," he continued. "The coach would monitor the Soldier's daily performance and sleep habits and make proactive outreach calls to the Soldier if any deviations from the norm are found or, any time a Soldier wants to ask the coach for assistance."
Dr. Michael Smith, a clinical psychologist at Johns Hopkins University and director of the university's Sleep Psychophysiology Laboratory, helped develop the sleep survey and has conducted sleep research in the past. He believes that sleep is a neglected area of intervention.
"Typically, doctors will ask their patients questions or give advice about such things as diet, exercise and smoking but rarely about sleep," Smith said. "We are only now starting to recognize that sleep is a critical health behavior."
Smith said the focus is not just on sleep per se, but on other health problems that poor sleep might be signaling. Smith noted that there are more than 100 types of sleep disorders and some of these are linked to serious health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
Frank believes that sleep is important to the Army. Army medicine recognizes the importance of sleep, he said, as it is one of the three areas of focus in its "Performance Triad" of sleep, activity and nutrition.