Apr 5, 2022
Improving Sleep Performance in Tactical Operators


Planning for sleep in training and tactical environments is a core leadership competency. Leaders must know the sleep-work cycles of their soldiers, particularly when they are working shifts, are in operational environments or are outside standard duty hours.

Combat operations can create situations where inadequate sleep becomes the norm. Soldiers who do not get enough sleep accumulate a sleep debt that must be paid off by getting the needed sleep.

A recent article from Performance Triad discussed potential sleep tactics for sustained operations on the battlefield.

Below is an excerpt from the Performance Triad article.

Inadequate sleep impairs the following abilities, among others:

  • Detecting and appropriately determining the threat level
  • Requesting indirect fire
  • Coordinating squad tactics
  • Integrating range cards

Signs of insufficient sleep:

  • Struggling to stay awake during mission breaks, guard duty, or driving
  • Difficulty understanding or tracking information
  • Attention lapses
  • Irritability, decreased initiative/motivation

Overcoming sleep distractors:

  • Nap as much as possible to get 7-9 hours of sleep every 24 hours
  • If tactically permitted, use soft foam earplugs and a sleep mask or room fan to block noise/light
  • Do not use any drugs (prescription or over-the-counter) to help you sleep unless you are taking them under the guidance of your healthcare provider

» ALSO SEE: 3 Tips for Incorporating a Tactical Diet

Sleep does not have to be taken in one continuous period to be effective. It is preferable to give Soldiers uninterrupted sleep time at night when the brain clock is programmed for sleep. But two periods that add up to 7–9 hours of sleep also work. Naps can be taken to compensate for insufficient nighttime sleep.

Bottom line: Do not create schedules or situations in which Soldiers are forced to choose between adequate sleep and other off-duty activities (personal hygiene, calling home, meals, etc.) They will always sacrifice sleep in these situations.

To read the full article from Performance Triad (P3) about sleep tactics for sustained operations, click here.