The Impact of Sleep Deprivation on the U.S. Navy

LAST UPDATED: December 14, 2021

Source: DVIDS External Link
​​Author: Jacob Vernier ​

I’m tired” is a saying used to describe one who needs sleep or rest. In the Navy, the lack of sleep can cost Sailors their lives, like in the collision between USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) and a commercial ship. The National Transportation Safety Board maritime accident report, Collision between US Navy Destroyer John S McCain and Tanker Alnic MC Singapore Strait, 5 Miles Northeast of Horsburgh Lighthouse August 21, 2017, cite sleep deprivation as a factor that impacted the decision-making capabilities of the Sailors onboard, which cost 10 Sailors their lives and injured 48 more. 

The March 2021 Pentagon report, Study on Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Readiness of Members of the Armed Forces, explains that “In the United States, 37 percent of people regularly don’t get their recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night. For military personnel, that number climbs to 76 percent,” highlighting sleep deprivation issues that many face within the military community. 
According to Kirsten Diller, NSA Souda Bay’s Fleet and Family Support Center director, the lack of sleep has detrimental impacts on one’s life. As Diller puts it, “the lack of sleep impairs attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem solving.” These attributes are vital for basic functioning. Without the functioning fundamentals people can’t perform to the highest of their abilities, says Diller. 

Furthermore, these attributes are even more vital for servicemembers and the intense workload that they face. If a Sailor is not functioning with these attributes they may fall short in performing at their peak. Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Greggory Kent, Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Unit Souda Bay Leading Petty Officer, describes sleep as “…important for watch standers on base. If they’re sleepy or drowsy, they are putting everyone else in danger.” This applies to not only watch standing, but also the dangerous nature of various other duties that Sailors perform. A proper sleep schedule can also be applied to Sailor’s physical readiness. Without the correct amount of sleep, Kent stresses that the requirements of the Physical Fitness Assessment are less likely to be met. 

If service members can’t sleep a reasonable amount of time, then medical has many resources to assist. Kent explains that medical has resources that help service members learn sleep hygiene, which includes information on factors that prohibit adequate sleep. Likewise, Diller recommends a multitude of ways to get the correct amount for your body such as: sticking to a schedule, exercising, avoiding alcohol and cigarettes, practicing a relaxing activity, and much more.​

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