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Coming Tuesday: Live chat on sleep issues and PTSD

August 2, 2008 |  9:00 am

America has been hit with chemical weapons. My fiancee and I try to outrun the gases billowing toward us. We climb into protective suits and strap gas masks over our faces. We take over an abandoned house and I work desperately to seal it up. The world is coming apart.

Mitch Hood, 25, spent two tours in Iraq with the Marines. Now, like many other veterans, he faces a new enemy: sleep.

Hood has nightmares nearly every night, many like the one above, laced with the fear he felt when he was in Iraq. Most nights, he battles his own body's need to sleep, opting to stay awake so he doesn't fall into nightmares.

Hood knows he is not the only one with these problems. Sleep and wakefulness issues are the most common health problems described by recently returned soldiers, researchers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center found in a study published last year.

A Times reporter and videographer stayed up all night with the former Marine and his fiancee to witness his struggles. The print story will appear in Tuesday's newspaper. A video of the vigil, plus interviews with Hood and other veterans, accompany the story on the Web.

Join us for a live Web chat at noon Tuesday to discuss the influence of war on sleep and how physicians try to treat the problems. We will be doing a question-and-answer session with Dr. Thomas C. Neylan, director of the Posttraumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD) Program at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and Steve Woodward, director of the Sleep Research Laboratory at the VA's National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Palo Alto.

Mark your calendars and set your bookmarks -- the chat happens right here Aug. 5 at noon Pacific time.

-- Jia-Rui Chong

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