Sleep Knowledge Goals and Habits in Soldiers
by Benjamin Bunting BA(Hons) PGCert
Written by Ben Bunting: BA(Hons), PGCert. Sport & Exercise Nutrition. British Army Physical Training Instructor (MFT).
Understanding the epidemiology of sleep deprivation, implementing sleep hygiene measures, and understanding the long term effects of poor sleep hygiene are some of the main goals of military sleep research. This article aims to describe some of the key aspects of the field, and to explore the potential to improve the understanding of these issues by providing an overview of some of the research findings.
Understanding the epidemiology of sleep deprivation
Understanding the epidemiology of sleep deprivation in soldiers is critical to maximizing the health and performance of military personnel. Sleep deprivation can compromise national security, mission success, and personal safety. It can also increase healthcare costs and increase the risk of accidents. Insufficient sleep can affect a soldier's cognitive, psychomotor, and interpersonal functioning.
Although the US military has an established sleep guideline, research indicates that the guidelines are not enough. The Office of the Army Surgeon General developed the "Leader's Guide to Soldier Health and Fitness," which provides strategies for obtaining seven hours of sleep.
According to the National Commission on Sleep Disorders, direct sleep-related medical costs in the US amount to hundreds of billions of dollars annually. To minimize negative outcomes, early intervention to minimize sleep debt is necessary.
Sleep deprivation is associated with increased fatigue, decreased ability to fight infection, and impaired academic and interpersonal functioning. In addition, it can lead to depression, anxiety, and errors.
Understanding the epidemiology of sleep deprivation can be useful in identifying ways to mitigate early-stage sleep disturbances. This may reduce the risk of future mental illness in the military population.
Long-term prospective studies to monitor the impact of sleep disorders are necessary. Studies must include a variety of control groups including healthy individuals, trauma exposed-only subjects, and those matched to healthy controls.
There is a need for additional studies of sleep duration and shift schedules in the military. In addition, it is critical to understand inter-individual variability in resiliency to stress, which can determine optimal military occupational specialties.
A recent study of 55,000 US service members identified a strong relationship between sleep duration and mental health disorders. This study revealed that insomnia was a co-morbid condition with other psychological disorders, such as PTSD and depression, at a high rate. Additionally, the study found that those with insomnia were more likely to suffer from poor health, and to be more likely to be discharged from the military.
Military personnel often sleep in unfamiliar environments that are not conducive to sleep. These environments can include heavy stress, continuous operations, and a combat scenario.
Recapitulating the military sleep environment in the laboratory using rodents
One of the challenges associated with conducting research on sleep knowledge goals and habits in the military is the limited opportunity to recreate the conditions of a military sleep environment in a laboratory setting. These include heavy stress, extended shifts, and combat scenarios.
The study found that many soldiers suffer from sleep problems that go above and beyond daytime fatigue. This includes using sleep medications, nightmares, and insufficient sleep duration. Despite the prevalence of these sleep problems, it is still not clear what their cause is.
Fortunately, the study found that there is a correlation between sleeping knowledge and the likelihood of achieving adequate sleep. Soldiers with better sleep knowledge were more likely to report that they were getting adequate sleep.
Sleep may not be the first thing you think of when you think of war, but the impact of sleep disturbances on force readiness and physical health is well documented. As a result, it is important to understand how sleep affects servicemembers' ability to perform their duties.
A comprehensive sleep study can optimize the health of personnel in the long term. However, such a study requires a commitment to the process. Service leaders and medical practitioners should be educated about how to conduct such a study and should be given incentives to recruit and retain servicemembers willing to participate in such a study.
Some of the recommended tactics to implement these recommendations include developing an electronic medical record to record servicemembers' sleep-related mishaps and linking these records across deployment cycles. In addition, it is essential that unit leaders and health practitioners educate themselves about how to develop and implement a sleep plan.
In addition, it is also important to implement evidence-based sleep programs to promote healthy sleep behaviors and prevent the onset of chronic sleep disorders. Such programs should be targeted at soldiers who are at risk for insufficient sleep.
Finally, it is important to incorporate the findings of this study into training and operational policies. Revisions to existing policies should be made to minimize inconsistencies and create a consistent message about the importance of sleep.
Field interventions to offset sleep loss during operations
Optimal sleep is an ongoing challenge for military personnel. This is a multi-dimensional challenge that includes a unique sleep environment and the continuous operations that make up a typical day in a military setting.
A comprehensive sleep study can help optimize the long-term health of service members. Sleep deprivation can affect mental performance and cause errors. In addition, chronic sleep deprivation can be associated with post-traumatic stress disorder and cardiovascular disease. Fortunately, there are a variety of resources available to aid in optimizing the sleep of service members, such as the US Army Office of Surgeon General's Performance Triad initiative.
Obtaining sufficient restorative sleep is essential for both personal and unit performance. The US Army Field Manual 6-22.5 provides evidence-based pharmacological and preventative measures to counteract periods of insufficient sleep.
A comprehensive sleep study can also help maximize psychological health. For example, a study found that adolescent trainees improved their sleep quality and reduced their mood disturbances. Although the same study did not evaluate mental performance, these improvements are well worth noting.
As a result, military leaders must recognize the importance of sleep and its benefits to both military and civilian operations. They must also pay attention to the published guidelines on sleep, which can be obtained from the US Army's Office of the Surgeon General.
There is much more to learn about the health benefits of sleep. Several studies have suggested that a minimum of five hours of sleep per night is required for optimal performance. Yet, the majority of service members sleep less than this. These sleep deprived troops work in highly stressful environments that demand immediate attention. It is imperative that leaders and medical professionals recognize the published guidelines on sleep, and take steps to mitigate its effects.
Studies are needed to measure the physiological changes that occur in neural circuitry following sleep disruption. For example, a study using wrist-worn actigraphy demonstrated a significant link between sleep quantity and next-day performance in armored battalions. Other studies have compared the effects of sleep loss with mild alcohol intoxication.
Long-term effects of poor sleep hygiene on soldiers
Sleep problems are a common reaction to stress and can lead to physical health and mental health problems. They are associated with a number of adverse health outcomes, including PTSD, accidents, and suicide. Insufficient sleep compromises personal safety and mission success. It also impedes readiness and force resilience. Therefore, it is crucial to achieve sufficient amounts of restorative sleep.
Combat exposure may increase the risk of sleep disturbances. A number of factors contribute to the increased vulnerability of these populations, including the presence of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and combat stress. However, there are few long-term studies of this population.
Military culture has historically underemphasized the importance of sleep. In turn, sleep is perceived as a low priority, and there is a stigma attached to seeking help. This can thwart efforts to promote healthy sleep habits. The military is in the best position to change this mindset.
However, the lack of screening procedures and continuity of care in military settings create barriers to promoting healthy sleep. Similarly, the lack of research supporting the use of pharmacologic approaches to treat insomnia in military settings limits the efficacy of this approach.
To address the gap in our understanding of sleep problems, a cross-sectional survey was conducted to assess the prevalence and correlates of these symptoms among personnel. Covariates included sociodemographic characteristics, host of deployment, psychiatric and medical health, and operational readiness. Moreover, the study identified specific subgroups of servicemembers at high risk of sleep problems.
The study provided actionable recommendations for the DoD and Service-level sleep policies. These include conducting a systematic review of sleep-related policies within the DoD and Service. Moreover, a comprehensive assessment of sleep-related programs should be conducted to understand the potential for preventing and treating sleep problems in the post-deployment period.
Understanding the long-term effects of poor sleep hygiene on soldiers is crucial to ensure their well-being. Several studies have shown that chronic insufficient sleep is associated with PTSD, parasomnias, and other sleep disorders. Likewise, insufficient sleep can also lead to other health conditions, such as cardiometabolic disorders and metabolic syndrome.
Military health policies must include programs that promote sleep health. These policies may be targeted at the entire individual, unit, or organization. However, they must be tailored to meet specific operational needs.
Sleep is a fundamental human need, which can be compromised by behavioral, environmental, and institutional factors. Lack of sleep has been linked to decreased cognitive performance, physical performance, and decision making. It has also been associated with depression and other psychological disorders. A comprehensive understanding of the prevalence of sleep disturbances and the effectiveness of evidence-based treatments for them is essential to improving servicemembers' sleep health.
A new study conducted by the RAND National Defense Research Institute (NDRI) explored sleep behaviors and problems among US soldiers. The findings identified knowledge and cultural barriers that impede efforts to promote healthy sleep practices in the military.
Despite the importance of sleep, the military culture and practices do not prioritize it. This has a long-term impact on the health of soldiers. Educating leaders on the benefits of sleep-promoting behaviors can positively affect unit readiness.
Behavioral and environmental factors contribute to poor sleep quality in the military. Recruits and servicemembers often use alcohol or other pharmacological aids to get to sleep. Several electronic applications have been developed to support sleep.
Leaders should ensure that their units set up a conducive sleep environment. Limit light exposure before bedtime and encourage soldiers to make sleeping conditions quiet and cool. Additionally, leaders should teach soldiers about the pros and cons of available stimulants such as caffeine and help them develop appropriate sleep habits.