Soldiers in the U.S. Army are capable of physical feats most couldn’t even comprehend, but they too need adequate sleep to get the job done. While it’s recommend that soldiers maintain a consistent schedule with seven to nine hours of sleep every day, new guidelines recognize that’s not always possible. The army’s updated strategy to combat lack of sleep? Naps.
Coined “aggressive napping” by the New York Times, the United States Army napping recommendations are outlined in the FM 7-22 Holistic Health and Fitness manual, a rebranding of the Army’s physical fitness training field manual. In addition to a detailed physical training schedule, the manual—hadn’t been updated in eight years—now features chapters dedicated to nutrition, spiritual readiness, and sleep.
“When regular nighttime sleep is not possible due to mission requirements, soldiers can use short, infrequent naps to restore wakefulness and promote performance. When routinely available sleep time is difficult to predict, soldiers might take the longest nap possible as frequently as time is available,” reads the manual. “Use naps to achieve seven to eight hours of sleep every 24 hours. Naps will improve alertness and performance.”
Raman Malhotra, MD, a member of the board of directors of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), explains that naps can have a hugely positive impact on your overall well-being.
“Sleep is a restorative process for the brain, allowing your body to hit the pause button in the middle of a hectic day,” says Dr. Malhotra. “Remarkably, even napping for as little as 10 minutes can recharge the mind and provide an energy boost.”
The manual also recommends using caffeine to help with fatigue. “During periods of restricted sleep (six hours of sleep or less per night), napping combined with appropriate doses of caffeine may help to sustain cognitive performance and alertness,” the manual reads. Drinking coffee right before you nap (a “nappuccino,” if you will) can help you master the power nap and wake up feeling refreshed.
Beyond napping, the manual suggests soldiers optimize their sleep hygiene.
“Sleep is the critical requirement for brain health and function,” the manual reads. “Sleep readiness is the ability to recognize and implement the requisite sleep principles and behaviors to support optimal brain function. In turn, sleep readiness underpins a Soldier’s ability to meet the physical and nonphysical demands of any duty or combat position, accomplish the mission, and continue to fight and win.”
Soldiers are directed to maintain a consistent sleep-wake schedule during both on-duty and off-duty days and go to bed when the sun goes down and be active when the sun is up. Additionally, they should practice a bedtime routine to help them wind down.
“Pre-sleep routines that promote winding down—such as listening to soothing music, reading, or taking a warm shower or bath—30 to 60 minutes prior to bedtime tend to facilitate the transition to sleep,” reads the manual. “These routines will maximize sleep duration. Conversely, activities such as watching television, playing video games, chatting online, and similar interesting or engaging activities tend to arouse the brain and delay sleep onset.”
Next time you’re feeling fatigued, follow the army playbook and take a nap.