Sleep Deprivation Countermeasures

LAST UPDATED: April 28, 2021
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How to prepare for sleep deprivation

To achieve maximum sleep in a continuous operating environment there are several strategies that can be used to counter the many negative effects of sleep loss on military-relevant performance. 

Sleep banking

Up to 2 weeks prior to operations or the start of mission, Soldiers can pay down their sleep debt AND "bank" sleep by getting 8 or more hours of sleep. This will help to start the mission with a full bank.


  • Use naps to achieve your 7+ hours of sleep every 24 hours.
  • A nap will improve alertness and performance. It also reduces mistakes and accidents.
  • Although sleep inertia (the grogginess you feel upon awakening) reduces performance immediately upon awakening, it is usually NOT a good reason to avoid napping.
  • If immediate responsiveness is required upon awakening, caffeine gum can be used immediately upon awakening to more rapidly restore alertness and performance.
  • Taking too long of a nap, or naps taken to closely to bedtime may disrupt your nightly sleep.
  • In sustained or continuous operations though, GET AS MUCH SLEEP AS POSSIBLE in chunks of time that are as large as operations or mission allows. 

Using caffeine

Caffeine has positive effects on alertness, mental acuity, and physical performance.

  • Caffeine is the most widely used stimulant in the world and it has a proven track record. After taking in caffeine (e.g., via a cup of coffee or energy drink), it starts to enhance alertness and performance in about 20 minutes.  However, if caffeine gum is used, time to peak effectiveness is reduced to about 5 minutes.
  • You can order caffeine gum through the Army's supply system (NSN 8925015301219) Stay Alert Energy Caffeine Gum). One piece contains 100 mg of caffeine. Use the gum according to the dosing schedule.
  • Caffeine is found in a wide variety of food items, so it is important to monitor caffeine intake to maximize your ability to sleep.
  • Caffeine DELAYS sleep, it does NOT replace sleep. The only way to recover from sleep loss is to obtain sleep.
  • Caffeine doses ranging from 200–400 mg has been shown to be effective for sustaining performance in the context of sleep deprivation and sleep restriction. Up to ~400 mg of caffeine can be found in commercially available 16-oz servings of brewed coffee. NOTE: Monitor caffeine intake to maximize your ability to sleep. 

Managing sleep countermeasures

Countermeasures such as energy drinks, soda, supplements, and coffee can only provide so much stimulation and should be used in moderation. Overuse or misuse of these countermeasures will ultimately have a negative impact your performance (and your sleep). 

Managing naps

Naps should be used when you are not able to get 7 or more hours of sleep per 24 hours. 

Managing caffeine

It is recommended that caffeine consumption be discontinued at least 6 hours prior to bed time. "Sleep is ammo for the brain" and it is important to maximize the quality and quantity of sleep that can be obtained. It is equally important to understand that the effects of caffeine are reduced if it is overused (tolerance to caffeine can develop).

Caffeine timing
Conditions Caffeine Dose and Timing
Sustained Operations (no sleep) 200 mg @ 0000
200 mg again @ 0400 and 0800 h, if needed
Use during daytime (1200, 1600) only if needed
Night Operations with Daytime Sleep 200 mg @ start of night shift
200 mg again 4 hours later
Last dose: at least 6 hours away from sleep period
Restricted Sleep (6 or fewer hours of sleep) 200 mg upon awakening
200 mg again 4 hours later
No caffeine within 6 hours of lights out

If you notice any of the following, you may need to lower you daily caffeine intake.

  • Problems falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Stomach upset
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Muscle tremors
  • Jitteriness 

Using caffeine to counteract sleep deprivation can create a vicious circle. For example, you may drink caffeinated beverages because you have trouble staying awake during the day, but the caffeine disrupts your nighttime sleep which increases your sleep debt and sleepiness on the following day, so you consume a larger amount of caffeine, which subsequently worsens your nighttime sleep even more, and so on.  To help avoid getting trapped in this vicious circle, closely monitor and control the foods or beverages you consume.  Many contain caffeine although they may not list exactly how much caffeine they contain.

Caffeine content of popular products
Product                                  Approximate Amount of Caffeine
1 16-oz. bottle of Coke®                                                       50 mg
1 squirt (1/2 tsp) MiO® Energy Water Enhancer                  60 mg
1 16-oz. bottle of Diet Coke®                                               60 mg
1 8.3-oz. can of RedBull®                                                    80 mg
1 piece of Stay Alert® chewing gum                                  100 mg
1 Monster® Energy Drink                                                   160 mg
1 tablet of NoDoz®                                                             200 mg
1 16-oz. Starbucks PikePlace® Roast coffee                     330 mg

CAUTION: High doses of caffeine from caffeine-containing beverages have led to the doubling of caffeine-related emergency room visits from 2007–11.  These events typically (but not always) involve consumption of large amounts of caffeine by individuals who are especially sensitive to its effects. 

NOTE: Use of trademarked name(s) does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Army but is intended only to assist in identification of specific products.

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