Tuesday, April 14, 2009

U.S. Navy Paying Attention to Sleep Cycles & Sleep Deprivation

The dramatic rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips from Somali pirates has focused the world’s attention on the U.S. Navy and the Navy SEALs. The mission exemplified the Navy ethos of being “disciplined and well-prepared.”

Does sleep play a role in this preparation of Navy sailors and pilots?

article in the Virginian-Pilot takes a look. It finds that within the Naval ranks awareness of the importance of sleep is growing.

One major issue of concern is the effect that
rotating work shifts and missions can have on performance and alertness. The article reports that a squadron in Iraq is experimenting to find the best way to rotate its pilots' flight schedules.

But it’s not just the pilots who need sleep. Crew members often get by on short naps during carrier operations.

There also is concern that sleep deprivation and fatigue can increase mistakes and accidents. In response the Navy is taking a high-tech approach.

It is testing the
Fatigue Avoidance Scheduling Tool software, or FAST. This system helps predict performance over time based on sleep and work schedules.

Is this leading to a sea change in
how the Navy operates? Not yet.

The article points out that the Navy has been doing things a certain way for a long time. Changes will come in ripples rather than waves.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Elliott Fabrizio

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