A U.S. Army soldier takes a nap -- which the Pentagon now recommends to combat sleep deprivation -- while another holds position on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Photo by Spc. Ken Scar/U.S. Army
March 3 (UPI) -- A new Defense Department report called sleep deprivation a serious detriment to readiness, adding that most service members lack adequate sleep, and backs up earlier moves made by the Pentagon to improve both quantity and quality of sleep for military personnel.
The "Study on Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Readiness of Members in the Armed Forces" was published last week, following a demand from Congress after sleep deprivation was determined to be a factor in two separate collisions in 2017 between U.S. Navy vessels and commercial ships.
The accidents killed 17 Navy personnel.
"Sleep may be the most important biological factor that determines service member health and combat readiness," says the 69-page report, first reported by Stars & Stripes and USNI News.
"U.S. military personnel across settings tend to self-report significantly higher rates of sleep deprivation than the general national population," the report says. "Between 27 and 38 percent of service members indicate that the length of the duty day and the overall pace of 24-hour-per-day military operations result in sleep deprivation due to restricted opportunity for sleep."
The report also cited prior relevant scientific studies, one noting that 64 percent of service members lack adequate sleep, compared to 28 to 37 percent of the civilian U.S. population.
After the 2017 incidents involving the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John C. McCain, the Navy changed its policy regarding duty schedules -- but Adm. William Moran told Congress in 2019 that the revisions were not always followed.
The report said that risk mitigation should include military commanders' insistence that duty schedules include adequate periods of sleep and recovery time after missions, monitoring of caffeine intake and a decrease of environmental disruption in sleep areas.
It also recommended that the Pentagon should establish a culture which prioritizes sleep, suggesting "tactical naps" of about 20 minutes and scheduled about two-thirds through a period of being awake.
It follows publication of a U.S. Army field manual in October 2020 that officially embraces midday naps to help improve performance.
The new guide focused on individual wellness rather than the health of whole units, and was an update of the Army's health and fitness recommendations for the first time since 2012.