Introduction to Sleep

LAST UPDATED: August 31, 2022

Why is sleep important?

Sleep is vital for brain health, mental performance, physical performance, immune function, and psychological well-being. Sleep sustains the brain's capabilities for success on and off the battlefield. With quality sleep, Soldiers prepare themselves to excel both mentally and physically.

Sleep is required for normal brain function. Soldiers require 7+ hours of quality sleep every 24-hours to maintain their mental edge. When Soldiers do not get enough sleep, their mental acuity suffers—putting themselves and fellow Soldiers at risk for errors, accidents and mishaps. Insufficient sleep is a safety risk and a threat to mission success.

Sleep maintains physical and psychological health, quality of life, and safety. Sleep is necessary for recovery from the wear and tear of daily life—the brain does not recover during wakefulness, even during periods of quiet rest.

Your brain needs sleep to restore and repair, grow new brain connections to work efficiently, form memories and process new information. So prioritize sleep when planning training or when learning a new skill or task. Sleeping well before learning will help with attention and understanding. Sleeping well after learning will improve your ability to both remember and use the newly-acquired skills and information.

Performance benefits of sleep

  • Concentration 
  • Attention 
  • Health 
  • Mood 
  • Judgment 
  • Creativity 
  • Productivity 
  • Physical Performance

The amount of sleep that adults need varies by age and genetics.  The vast majority of adults need 7+ hours of sleep every 24 hours to sustain normal mental acuity and health. Many people think that they can perform at a high level on a steady diet of less than 7 hours of sleep per 24 hours.  They are wrong. Although such individuals typically feel that they are performing well, they are actually "losing a little bit of ground" every day.  This daily loss of capacity is typically so small that it is not noticeable from one day to the next, but the deficits that accumulate over days and weeks gradually add up to a meaningful loss of mental acuity and performance.

Soldiers, like just about everyone else, tend to overestimate their ability to withstand the effects of sleep loss. In part, this is because insufficient sleep impairs the brain's fundamental ability to self-assess – an impaired brain is not capable of accurately evaluating itself.  And sleep loss-induced impairment cannot be overcome by high levels of motivation, initiative, willpower, nicotine, or caffeine.

You are probably sleep deprived if:

  • You fall asleep within 5 minutes of going to bed 
  • You fall asleep during routine low stimulus-activity such as sitting in church, watching TV, riding as a passenger in a car 
  • You "sleep in" for an extra 2 or more hours on weekends or other days off (this suggests that you are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis).

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