But VA isn’t studying it.
Over 1.2 million veterans have some sort of sleep disorder, from mild insomnia to severe night terrors. That makes up roughly 20% of all veterans. This is no small number.
The VA’s ‘go-to’ method to treat sleep disorder is to prescribe drugs, such as Ambien. But sleeping pharmaceuticals often have adverse side effects, especially for vets suffering from PTSD, and often exacerbate the problem. .
That’s why its baffling that the VA isn’t taking seriously this drug alternative described below. Its a proven sleep remedy used by many hospitals. Its been proven to help children suffering from anxiety disorders. So why can’t the VA study it on veterans?
The Below is a condensed version of the very long and detailed Motherboard article on this sleep remedy. If you want the entire article, scroll to the last page for the link.
Read about one veteran’s harrowing experience with sleep disorder, and how he’s finally winning the war against sleep
Andrew Petrulis is finally getting some rest.
For years, he didn’t want to fall asleep. He was out of the war but sleep put him back in it. His dreams replayed scenes from 11 years of active-duty service as a member of a US Air Force explosive ordnance disposal unit. Master Sgt. Petrulis defused roadside bombs and other improvised explosives with a robot, or sometimes his own hands, throughout Iraq, Afghanistan, and Southwest Asia between 2002 and 2013. He received the Bronze Star twice. He shot at people and got blown up. Bombs went off within feet of him. The explosions rattled his brain.
He relived these scenes, over and over, in nightmares.
After an honorable discharge, returning home, and joining the reserves in 2013, an MRI showed scar tissue on his brain. The VA diagnosed Petrulis with traumatic brain injury, severe post-traumatic stress disorder, tinnitus, Achilles and kneecap tendonitis, and depression. The VA rated his disabilities at a combined 140 percent, with PTSD, which his life now revolves around, accounting for 70 percent of that rating. But he was still functional in the sense that he could eat and go to the bathroom on his own. The VA ultimately declared him a 90 percent disabled veteran.
He was running on fumes, getting only two or three fitful hours of sleep each night. He had regular panic attacks. Weekly night terrors. Vivid nightmares every other day, or so. He locked himself in his house, alone. Sometimes he’d drink on the couch until he passed out. But mostly he was too afraid to close his eyes.
“It got really, really bad,” Petrulis, now 31, tells me. “I couldn’t do anything. So I’d just stay up.”
Things are different today. Three or four nights a week, after tucking himself in bed, Petrulis slides a prototype 17-pound weighted blanket over his sheets. The blanket is roughly 3 feet wide by 6 feet long, covered in penguin print, and looks a bit like 60 or so 4 x 4 inch bean bags handstitched together. The pockets are each stuffed with polypropylene pellets and a sort of memory foam material.
Petrulis is a big guy—6’2″, 250 pounds—but the blanket’s weight spreads evenly over him.
“I feel safer when it’s covering my entire body,” Petrulis explains. No one can bother him this way. “It sets my mind up for sleeping hard that night.”
Which he does.
What happens, exactly, while he’s under such pressure? It sounds almost too good to be true. Whatever it is, can heavy blankets help other veterans with combat-related sleep problems get some rest too? What about restless deployed troops? Can heavy blankets offer them relief?
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