Sleep Under Stressful Conditions

LAST UPDATED: April 22, 2022
Skip Navigation LinksPerformance Triad / Performance Learning Center / Learn About Sleep / Sleep Under Stressful Conditions
​Publication Title: Sleep Under Stressful Conditions Quick Guide
Source: WRAIR​

​The Challenge
Being in an environment that is dangerous or tense and being uncertain of what tomorrow brings can cause worries and anxiety that can ma​ke it difficult to sleep. Stress can cause difficulty initiating and/or maintaining sleep. Losing sleep when under stress is common. 
  • ​If you are having feelings of anxiety and you are having trouble sleeping, use this guide to learn about strategies, tips, and techniques to reduce stress and improve your sleep. Under stressful Conditions Quick guide​

Strategies to C​ombat Daytime Stress and Bedtime Worries

  • Journal thoughts and feelings of that day and of the future. 
  • Make a list or reminders of tasks needed to be accomplished the next day to have some level of control and get it out of your head. 
  • Try these relaxations techniques: focused attention, progressive muscle relaxation and self-guided imagery (see back for examples).
​Tips to Improve Sleep when Possible
If you are in an environment where you have situational control, use the tips below to help improve your sleep. If not, prioritize the relaxation techniques to address stress and anxiety when trying to sleep. If sleep problems persist, especially when the threat or stressful event is over, discuss with your medical care provider.

  • Optimize what you can control in your sleep environment (e.g., cooler temperatures or the use of ear plugs or eye masks for stimulus control).
  • Add elements from your bedtime routine to help signal your body to prepare for sleep.
  • Limit screen time near bedtime as light can disrupt sleep.
  • If you are worrying and can’t shut off your thoughts and/or you have trouble falling asleep for more than 15 min remove yourself from your sleeping environment and return when you feel tired again.
  • To prepare for anticipated future sleep loss or to be able to better process an upcoming stressful time, bank sleep by sleeping more than the recommended 7+ hrs.
  • During the day if you can, exercise regularly, avoid caffeine before bedtime, reduce use of alcohol and nicotine, and maximize daylight exposure.
  • Sleep when you can. Use a tactical nap to achieve the recommended sleep amount of 7+ hrs per 24 hrs to help sustain performance during continuous operations.​
Join the discussion
Facebook X YouTube Cookpad Contact Us
Working together for a healthy community
U.S. Army Army Medicine Human Performance Resource Center ArmyFit Army Community Resource Guides