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 April 09, 2010

Armywide News

Mom's advice about sleep finds its
way into Army's thinking

The old adage is right. A good night’s sleep is the foundation to a better tomorrow. And that is not just good advice from your mother but also from top medical personnel in the U.S. Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC).

Soldiers require seven to eight hours of sleep a night to maintain the necessary level of mental alertness vital in today’s current environment.

More importantly, the Soldierly attitude of trying to power through cannot offset the detrimental, and potentially fatal, effects of inadequate sleep.

Sleep loss associated with certain medical disorders or overactive lifestyles can cause short-term or long-term problems but can always create significant difficulty in performing essential tasks such as driving or operating machinery.

“One night of sleeplessness closely resembles the effects of being drunk,” said Col. Karen O’Brien, TRADOC command surgeon. “Balance and coordination, decision-making and reaction times are all negatively affected by a lack of sleep.”

Sleep loss does not just cause short-term effects. According to O’Brien, Soldiers with sleep problems are 10 times more likely to have behavioral health problems, more likely to feel stressed, more likely to have vehicle accidents, and more likely to have substance-abuse problems.

Due to the red flags associated with inadequate sleep and the potential consequences, Soldiers who have sleep problems should be referred to their primary-care provider for an evaluation to rule out concerns such as sleep apnea or inadequate or improper diet.

Commanders also need to ensure their Soldiers are afforded the opportunity for seven to eight hours of sleep every 24 hours. Although not preferable, this can be broken up into two or more shorter periods. Shift workers can often fall into unhealthy sleep patterns, so care should be taken to monitor the sleep patterns of Soldiers who are not able to sleep during normal hours.

While downtime is important to Soldiers, rest does not equal sleep. According to Lt. Col. Diane Zierhoffer, TRADOC psychologist, gaming systems, Internet time and workouts early in the day are good ways to reduce stress, but can be detrimental if substituted for a full night’s sleep.

“You really want to push activities earlier into the day,” said Zierhoffer. “Meals and workouts can really be problematic and should occur earlier, with a tapering of activity toward the last hours before bedtime.”

For O’Brien, it all comes down to schedules, routines and efficiency.

“Longer hours do not mean productive hours,” she said. “It’s important to work effectively, not just longer hours.”

For additional information on sleep deprivation please see the new Combat and Operational Stress Control Manual FM 6-22.5.

(From Army News Service.)

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