Mom's advice about sleep finds its
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
More importantly, the Soldierly attitude of trying to power through
cannot offset the detrimental, and potentially fatal, effects of
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
“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
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.)