Role of Combat Exposure and Insomnia in Student Veterans’ Adaptation to College

James J. McGuffin, Shelley A. Riggs, Daniel J. Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objective/Background: Since 2002, the number of college student veterans has nearly doubled, although 30–40% of veterans fail to complete their degree. Few research efforts to understand the challenges veterans face transitioning to college in recent years have looked beyond the effects of posttraumatic stress disorder. Insomnia is the most frequently reported symptom of combat veterans and can have serious implications for college students. The purpose of this study was to examine the role of insomnia in student veteran adaptation to college relative to civilian students. Participants: College students (N = 588), including 154 veterans, participated in a large online study examining the psychological, relational, and academic functioning of college students. Approximately 61% of the veteran subsample reported combat exposure. Methods: Students were administered a Background Information Questionnaire, the Insomnia Severity Index, the Deployment Risk and Resilience Inventory, and the Student Adaptation to College Questionnaire. Data was analyzed using multivariate analysis of covariance and regression to test for direct and indirect effects. Results and Conclusions: Student veterans reported better academic and personal-emotional adaptation than civilian students, while civilians reported better social adjustment than veterans. However, follow-up analyses revealed that these effects might be explained by group differences in gender, income, and marital status. Although combat veterans without insomnia had better academic adjustment than noncombat veterans and civilian students, insomnia seemed to have a greater negative effect on combat veterans’ academic adjustment relative to civilian students. Furthermore, insomnia mediated the relationship between combat exposure and veterans’ personal-emotional adjustment to college.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-223
Number of pages11
JournalBehavioral Sleep Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 4 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Neurology


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