When I walk into a doctor’s exam room, it’s usually to the sight of a lovely paper-covered table. But when I walk into the exam room at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence’s sleep lab, it’s a little different – there’s a full-sized bed. And some wires.

This is where active-duty service members with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries learn if they’ve got serious sleep issues.

The chance of that is pretty high. According to NICoE neurologist and sleep specialist Dr. Greg Morgan, about 90 percent of TBI patients have some sort of sleep complaint. They, along with PTSD sufferers, also have an increased risk of sleep apnea.

“About 40-50 percent of our patients have it,” Morgan said, adding that experts believe disrupted sleep during deployment predisposes some people to the problem.

Why Aren’t You Sleeping Well?

Active-duty service members are used to feeling a surge of adrenaline. Many people are able to dial down those surges when there are no immediate threats, but a lot of PTSD sufferers can’t, even while sleeping.

“That results from the repeated exposure to stress and the ability to not keep it under control,” Morgan said. ”

The surges can shut down REM sleep (the deep sleep stage) and wake you up. When you haven’t slept well, you can get irritable and anxious. You then don’t sleep well the next night, and the cycle repeats itself.