A unique side of military life is deployments. There is a lot of stress leading up to a deployment. Field exercises, floats, preparations, and separations. After that departure, back at home, a new journey begins. Sleep routines are interrupted. Especially if you are used to sleeping with your partner. If you are experiencing deployment and dealing with the emotions that are leading to disrupted sleep, try these solutions.
Create a new routine. Creating a new sleep routine does not replace or remove your partner; it creates a new predictable pattern. If you create a new routine in the hours before bed, eventually, your body and mind will be relaxed and prepared for sleep at the same time every night.
Anxiety is a repetitive emotion during deployment. Well-meaning family members send an article on every incident in the country or with any military ship, asking about the family member. It leads to being on edge and can disrupt sleep. The anxiety leads to restlessness. Take the focus off the anxiety by focusing on relaxing just prior to bed. Take a warm bath and avoid electronics two hours before bed. This allows for a shift in focus prior to bed. Add a weighted blanket and a sound machine at bedtime. These tools can combat anxiety preventing restful sleep.
When you are used to sleeping with someone else in the bed, and the loneliness makes it difficult to sleep, try adding a pillow to that person’s side of the bed or sleeping with a body pillow. Roll up a blanket on that side of the bed to add to the weight of the bed. Some military spouses shared that they put their spouse’s t-shirt on a pillow or a stuffed animal and slept with that to have the comforting smell of their spouse, all while being able to cuddle, allowing them to sleep. If children are comforted by dolls with their parent’s pictures on them, it makes sense that adults are comforted by these things as well.
When feeling restless and unsettled, the Sleep Foundation recommends focusing on relaxing rather than sleep. This sleep method was utilized by military service members when deployed during World War II. First, work by relaxing the face and neck, and slowly focus on the body parts below – first the shoulders, arms, and hands, then the torso, legs, and feet. Visualizing a relaxing scene. If your relaxing scene is interrupted by worries or thoughts, don’t focus on them; instead, focus on repeating the phrase “don’t think,” and focusing on this helps to remain relaxed.
If you wake up in the middle of the night due to restlessness, try sipping on warm decaffeinated tea or milk. Do not turn on screens where blue light could signal your brain to turn on. Instead, focus on drinking the relaxing, warm liquid.
Coupled with anxiety, fear can rule the home and the mind during a deployment. The ideas of what could be happening “over there” and at home can prevent one from sleeping. To focus at home, consider a security camera or house alarm system to provide a sense of comfort and awareness. If you are on edge worrying about what could happen at home, setting an alarm allows for peace of mind.
Having a dog at home also eases the mind. It is a ready alarm and a friendly companion to combat fear.
Deployments are periods filled with anxiety, loneliness, restlessness, and fear. While these emotions are common and expected, they do not have to rule the sleep routine with the right tools and preparation.