Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sleepy Soldiers: Proposal Recommends More Sleep for U.S. Combat Troops

Stars and Stripes reports that the U.S. Army Medical Command is proposing changes to current Army sleep guidelines.

The draft proposal recommends that U.S. soldiers in combat zones get seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Current guidelines suggest that soldiers get at least four hours of sleep each day when deployed.

The change would help prevent “performance degradation” on the battlefield. The guidelines state that sleep loss can have a critical effect on problem solving and decision making. It can result in delayed reaction times, lapses of attention and confused thinking.

The article cites two recent studies conducted at the
Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. The first study was published in the journal Sleep in 2007. It shows that 53 hours of sleep deprivation can impair the ability to make some moral judgments.

The second
study is in the current issue of Sleep. It shows that “banking sleep” before a period of sleep deprivation can reduce the effects of sleep loss on performance and alertness.

The study restricted the sleep of two groups to three hours in bed for seven nights. Prior to the sleep restriction, one group extended their nightly sleep to 10 hours in bed for one week. The other group maintained a typical nightly sleep time of about seven hours in bed during the week before sleep restriction.

The “extended sleep” group performed better during sleep restriction. They were better able to remain awake during the day. Their performance also rebounded faster after the period of restricted sleep.
Image courtesy of the U.S. Army.

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