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Sleep deprivation and the workplace: America, our military has a sleep problem

military and sleep deprivation

Sleeping on Duty: Soldiers and Sleep Deprivation

Sleep problems in the workplace can be deadly for our uniformed personnel. Active duty soldiers have high stress levels and shift work schedules that can endanger them on the front lines as well as from the fighter plane cockpit, submarine, or tank. Even those with less dangerous jobs off the ground can make serious mistakes in judgment and decision making, or can otherwise experience declines in job performance related to critical tasks.  

The problem of sleep deprivation isn’t a new one, but open discussions about it are, including this feature on retired Navy Admiral James Stavridis in Huffington Post last August, in which he frankly addresses the problem:

“When a military officer makes a bad decision in combat, terrible consequences often unfold. People die, and they are often innocent civilians who die as a result of collateral damage from an attack of some kind, or they are the men and women working for the exhausted military officer whose judgment is impaired.”

Task & Purpose (November 21, 2016) reviews the realities of outdated cultural and operational hurdles that don’t place proper emphasis on military personnel getting adequate sleep.

Training for Navy Seals has received negative press and attention recently after a few commandos died while training for special operations (Inquisitr, May 14 2016); another nearly died in a drowsy-driving incident related to ongoing sleep deprivation, according to this feature in Straits Times (May 14, 2016).

Soldiers are turning to caffeine-laced energy drinks to maintain daytime wakefulness, which end up leading to sleep deprivation, according to this January 8, 2017 post in Inquisitr.

A July 2016 suicide by an almost third-star general has been blamed on sleep deprivation according to this report in ArmyTimes.

It probably surprises no one that military spouses also suffer from sleep problems that are directly caused by stress and worry about their loved ones, as reported on in Sleep Review last June.

The Hindustan Times (November 20, 2016) reports on the Indian Air Force’s latest efforts to assess the impact of sleep deprivation on their pilots’ performance in the cockpit.

Solutions to the problem can be challenging, but the recent boom in wearable sleep technology and apps—which are serving the needs of professional athletes in need of improved performance—may be one direction the military takes to curb sleep deprivation, writes Strength of Science (January 8, 2017).

The National Sleep Foundation offers these recommendations for getting better sleep after military service ends.