REST program brings invaluable service

October 09, 2015

REST Project team

It is said that a good night's sleep is priceless. Having a restful night's sleep can change your outlook, your disposition and overall mood. It is important to a person's health to get adequate sleep. But what happens when you can't get a peaceful night's sleep, night after night? This is a challenge that many people are faced with, in particular military veterans.

Any college student can tell you his or her struggles to focus in class when they have not had a good night of rest. It is difficult to concentrate, the information becomes jumbled and retaining the content is challenging. When this is repeated day after day, the challenge then becomes succeeding in those classes.

Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) noted sleep as the number one concern reported by injured post-9/11 veterans and was seeking grant requests to address this issue in an innovative and holistic way.

The occupational therapy (OT) class 631 Program Assessment and Development, taught by Dr. Aaron Eakman, works with a partner organization to develop actionable proposals for client needs that include occupational therapy as a solution. In the Fall 2014 semester, the class worked with the New Start for Student Veterans Program (NSSV), which is part of the Center for Community Partnerships (CCP) in the Department of OT at CSU. NSSV is designed to support current and incoming post-9/11 CSU student veterans in achieving success in college and ultimately their career paths. It was through this class that several needs were identified for the student veterans.

A total of five student groups worked with NSSV in completing needs assessments. Each group identified different, yet overlapping program proposals to address student veterans' needs. Samantha Dutra, Alyssa Meyer, Michelle Moser, Katelyn Pagano and Jennifer Taylor worked on a project that identified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction as a program to address persistent stress. Another group with Nancy Collins, Katie Crelly, Tanya Mander, Mandie Rangel and Erica Tohtz identified addressing visual impairments as a need. Christian Baker, Kristen Kalb, Kenna Kacillas, Erika Osmann, and Kristin Schneider's group identified mainstream assistive technologies as a needed component of service delivery. Tanya Benjamin, Jenni Green, Caiti McDaniel, Laura Starling, and Jess Rempel identified a social and family component that needed to be addressed. Lastly, Alex Goltz, Ali Harrigan, Katie McCool, Cara Nippert and Ashley Spooner worked on restoring restful sleep as a primary need in student veterans with service-connected injuries.

Every need that was identified is important on its own. However, Eakman knew that collectively these needs could be addressed and form an incredible program. Pulling identified needs and solutions from many of the projects, the idea for the REST Program was formed.

Eakman together with Cathy Schelly, Director of CCP and NSSV, submitted a grant request and WWP took notice. NSSV was awarded a 2015 WWP grant for $231,143.

The overarching goal of the Restoring Effective Sleep Tranquility in College Veterans with Service Related Injuries (REST) program is to enhance sleep quality, sleep duration, and the mental health of injured veterans through the development and delivery of an evidence-based and sustainable sleep improvement program. The program will also include the veterans' significant others in the research. There will also be a technological component called RESTWEB that will be a web-based portal that will include sleep improvement resources.

To achieve its principal goal, the REST program will develop, implement, and test an evidence-based sleep improvement program that will enhance sleep quality and sleep duration in injured veterans from post-9/11 conflicts seeking degrees in higher education. The multi-disciplinary team will be led by Eakman and the Department of Occupational Therapy (OT) and partner with the Center for Community Partnership (CCP), the Assistive Technology and Resource Center (ATRC), University of Colorado Health (UCH), CSU's Department of Psychology and CSU's Center for Mindfulness.

Some of the people with key roles in the program are Arlene Schmid from the OT Department. Shannon Lavey leading the technology component is from the ATRC and Craig Spooner developing RESTWEB is from CCP. Cathy Schelly is guiding and facilitating the marketing and recruitment activities for the project. Department of Psychology's Kim Henry is performing data analysis. Margit Hentschel from the Center for Mindfulness will assist on the project. Sleep medicine physician Dr. Mark Petrun from UCH will consult on the project. Dr. Dave Fohrman, who is retired Army, and Jason Sydoriak, veteran and President of ASCSU, will also consult. Natalie Rolle, an OT for CCP, Erica Schelly and Joshua Burns will assist in the development and delivery of interventions.

The REST Program is without a doubt a collaboration of efforts. Its findings will not go unnoticed by the many veterans that suffer from repeated nights of poor sleep. The results of the REST program's interventions and studies will likely be invaluable to the veterans it aims to help.

Information regarding the REST project can be found at More information about New Start for Student Veterans' supported education services can be found at

Contact:  Jessica Hunter

Telephone:  970-491-6599