Army Looks To Improve The Sleep Of Their Soldiers

Army Looks To Improve The Sleep Of Their Soldiers

“In the Army, we do more before 9 a.m. than most people do all day” is a standard bit of military bravado. It’s as much about the discipline instilled in soldiers as it is about the fact that their strenuous training takes place under less-than-ideal health conditions — like waking up before dawn to exercise, which can create a cycle of sleep deprivation.

That’s partly why 10 percent of active duty soldiers have a diagnosed sleep disorder, and almost half have a “clinically significant” sleep disorder, according to a report the Army released last year. And fatigue was a contributing factor in 628 Army accidents and 32 soldier deaths between 2011 and 2014.

Now, the Army is trying to change its sleep culture with a wellness campaign called the Performance Triad, which is based on three pillars: nutrition, exercise and sleep.

And since more sleep was predicted to be the toughest sell among senior leadership, it has taken center stage in the campaign. Five bases around the country have been conducting a year-long pilot study to try to improve soldiers’ sleep. As these trials end — all are due to wrap up by next month — the Army is figuring out how to channel its findings into recommendations for the entire military branch.

There’s An App For That

The five Army bases experimenting with sleep interventions are:

  • Fort Bragg in North Carolina
  • Fort Campbell in Kentucky
  • Fort Carson in Colorado
  • Fort Riley in Kansas
  • Joint Base Lewis-McCord in Washington

Some soldiers at these five sites use Fitbits to track their sleep. They are allowed to do Physical Training — a tough, daily cardio and strength regimen — at 4 p.m. instead of at 6:30 a.m. And their nightly “bed checks,” when a sergeant inspects sleeping soldiers in barracks, have become quieter and earlier: Previously, an alarm would sound in each barrack while a sergeant went on these rounds, keeping soldiers awake for up to two hours. Now, the alarms are shorter and beds are checked all at once.

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