Active duty is, of course, difficult for the person who is serving in the military—he or she is far from home, often in a dangerous place, and dealing with a lot of stress and physical demands. But the deployment can also be tough on the family members who are left at home. When someone is deployed, the person’s spouse often reports having poorer sleep quality compared with when the whole family is together. And compared with the general population, spouses of deployed service members are likelier to sleep fewer than seven hours a night. (The recommended amount is seven to nine hours a night.)
It isn’t just the grown-ups who are affected, either. Kids can also have trouble sleeping when a parent is deployed, due to stress and separation anxiety. Plus, seeing their remaining parent feel anxious can make kids feel similar stress, causing them to stay up at night worrying. Even younger children like infants and toddlers can have trouble sleeping when a parent is deployed. Some kids might decide that they don’t want to sleep alone anymore as a result of everything that’s happening.
If this applies to your family, there are some things that you can do to improve the quality of your sleep. One of the biggest is to work with a mental health professional. This will help everyone—kids included—process their emotions so that everyone feels less stressed and can sleep a little better. Other ways to ease anxiety include getting regular exercise, meditating, and scheduling regular phone calls or Skype sessions (if possible) with the person who is deployed to stay connected.