If you’ve never served in the military, it may be difficult to imagine what it is like to live in a war zone. The reality is that it requires a lot of resources and the ability to adapt to ever changing conditions. Often times, one of the biggest challenges is getting enough sleep.
Whether bivouacked on the front or behind the lines, physical exhaustion wears even the most physically fit soldiers down. To make the most of their limited time, they find ways to get the rest they need. Soldiers have learned to use what is available, taking advantage of dark, shaded areas or power naps. They also do everything they can to block out light and give their circadian rhythm a fighting chance.
Some of these strategies aren’t just good for sleep — they improve performance in the process. For example, the “sleep banking” strategy has been found to improve a unit’s gunnery scores by 20% after just 10 days.
Soldiers also rely on sleep to help them stay alert, solve problems and complete critical tasks. But these important functions are significantly affected by short-term sleep deprivation, which can lead to memory deficits and slowed reaction times.
This means that even a single day without enough sleep can be dangerous for soldiers and their teammates. It’s no wonder that the Office of the Surgeon General recommends that soldiers aim for at least seven hours of sleep a night and take advantage of power naps when they can.