Sleep and its Effect on our Health and Safety
Our brains cannot function without sleep. You can't train your brain to do more with less sleep and there are no shortcuts (not even taking in more caffeine).
Sleep is critical in achieving optimal physical, mental, and emotional health, however, the demands of one's job often make it difficult to get sufficient sleep. In training and on the battlefield, inadequate sleep impairs many abilities that are essential to the mission, such as detecting and appropriately determining threat levels and coordinating squad tactics. Getting optimal sleep starts with learning and practicing good sleep habits before, during, and after deployment. There are many ways in which people can eliminate sleep distractors and practice proper sleep hygiene to ensure that optimal, healthy sleep is achieved.
Insufficient sleep has major health consequences in adults, adolescents, and young children. Strong evidence exists that among adults insufficient sleep has a significant effect on numerous health conditions, including chronic disease development.
Insufficient sleep also affects immunologic function and development of mood disorders and is associated with depression; deficits in cognition, memory and learning; and reduced quality of life. Adults who sleep fewer than 7 hours per night have greater difficulty concentrating, remembering, and performing other daily activities than those who sleep 7 to 9 hours a night.
Sleep Deprivation also impairs one’s ability to self-monitor. This means a person who is sleep-deprived tends to overestimate their ability to function. Their own proficiency is overestimated under sleep-deprived conditions. This is because the ability to self-monitor also relies on sufficient sleep. These physiologic deficits combined with reduced alertness and slowed reaction time, lead to errors, workplace injuries, impaired driving, and motor vehicle accidents. In 2009, almost 5% of adults in 12 states reported that during the previous 30 days they had nodded off or fallen asleep while driving. In 2005, drowsy driving contributed to 100,000 motor vehicle accidents and 15,000 deaths.
How Much Sleep do you need?
The CDC recommends that adults aged 18-60 get 7 or more sleep every night. This is just a general guidance; everyone's sleep requirements are different. There are many physiological and lifestyle factors that can affect your sleep quantity and quality. Pay attention to your individual needs and watch out for signs of sleep deprivation.
Signs of Inadequate Sleep
- Struggling to stay awake during briefings, classes, etc.
- Difficulty understanding or tracking information
- Lapses in attention
- Decreased initiative or motivation
Top 10 Sleep Habits for Adults
- Create a quiet, dark, comfortable sleeping environment.
- Use the bedroom only for sleep and sex.
- Stop caffeine at least 6 hours before bedtime.
- Don't drink alcohol before bed.
- Get your exercise in by early evening.
- Don't go to bed hungry.
- *Maintain a consisent regular routine that starts with a fixed wake-up time.
- *Get out of bed if you can't sleep.
- *Nap wisely (preferably in the late morning/early afternoon, for 30-60 minutes).
- *Move the bedroom clock to where you cannot see it.
*These sleep hygiene habits are especially critical for those experiencing sleep problems.
- National Sleep Foundation Sleep Myths and Facts: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-facts-information/myths-and-facts
- CDC Sleep and Sleep Disorders: https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/index.html