In its newest health manual update, the U.S. Army has recommended napping for soldiers to restore alertness when regular sleep is not possible due to mission requirements.
The new Army manual, released on Oct. 1 and titled FM 7-22 Holistic Health and Fitness, contains a section devoted to ways to combat sleep deprivation. Among those recommendations is napping.
“When regular nighttime sleep is not possible due to mission requirements, Soldiers can use short, infrequent naps to restore wakefulness and promote performance,” the manual states. “When routinely available sleep time is difficult to predict, Soldiers might take the longest nap possible as frequently as time is available. During periods of restricted sleep (6 hours of sleep or less per night), napping combined with appropriate doses of caffeine may help to sustain cognitive performance and alertness.”
The manual recommends additional methods to combat sleep deprivation, such as implementing other rest periods when sleep is not an option, reversing training schedules to implement physical training in the afternoon rather than the morning, and the use of caffeine. The manual also lists behavioral factors that can affect sleep, such as diet, exercise and alcohol use prior to sleep.
“The goal of the Holistic Health and Fitness System is to build physical lethality and mental toughness to win quickly and return home healthy,” the manual’s introduction states.
The new manual is set to supersede the portions of a previous manual written in 2012. According to the New York Times, the new manual is the first update in eight years and comes after the U.S. Navy also overhauled its sleep schedules after determining sleep deprivation was a factor in two fatal warship collisions.
Retired Army Lt. Gen. David Barno, who was commander of combined forces in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005, told the Times about some of the internal struggles between Army culture and sleep.
“The Army has always had an internal dynamic that real men don’t need sleep and can just push on, and it’s incredibly stupid,” Barno said. “Combat is a thinking man’s business and your brain doesn’t function without sleep.”
Phillip Carter, a former soldier and Iraq war veteran said “The Army is on to something here. The old manual looked like something out of a gym class from the 1960s. There was lots of jumping jacks and wind sprints. It wasn’t keeping pace about what we knew about combat. The truth is, we know sleep is critical to better decision-making.”
Carter said better approaches to training, sleep and nutrition could help avoid service-related injuries or accidents and result in significant cost-savings down the line
“The government is spending billions of dollars a year to compensate troops for breaking them in service,” Carter told the Times. “If it’s just a little bit better, it could be a huge difference.”