Service members on deployment may be anxious, concerned about their own safety, or missing home. And they may face uncomfortable sleeping surfaces and unusual sleep-wake cycles.
A recent article from Health.mil shared some tips on how to get some sleep while on deployment and other napping tactics. Below is an excerpt from the Health.mil article.
“Sleep is an inherently vulnerable state, and in operational environments there are many factors that can make it difficult to initiate or maintain sleep,” said Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Scott Williams, director of the Center for Military Psychiatry and Neuroscience (CMPN) at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Prior traumatic events or mild traumatic brain injury can also lead to additional sleeping problems.
As a result, getting proper sleep is a luxury that many service members may not always have.
“On average, military personnel sleep approximately six hours” a day, said Dr. Tom Balkin, a senior scientist at the CMPN’s Behavioral Biology Branch.
An average of six hours of sleep isn’t enough – at least seven hours is recommended, Williams said.
Running short on sleep could lead to poor health or poor performance. Sleep disorders can be “significant threats to readiness and lethality,” according to the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research’s Behavioral Biology site.
Prioritizing sleep during deployments is key to better performance, and, in the long run, a healthier military experience.
When long blocks of sleep are impractical, “the practice of tactical napping” can help reach the recommended seven hours of sleep per 24 hours, said Dr. Sara Alger, a sleep research scientist at the Behavioral Biology Branch’s Sleep Research Center.
“A tactical nap is ideally in a space that is dark, quiet, and comfortable, but really anywhere that is safe.”
These naps can also be used to get extra sleep before upcoming sleep loss, to increase alertness during major operations, and to help recover more quickly after sleep loss, said Alger.
And though napping may lead to initial grogginess when you wake up, she said, using the combination of naps and caffeine strategically can reduce that.