Sleep in the Military

An English Essayist George Orwell quotes, “We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.” 

Military service may sound appealing, but long hours of training and a rigorous environment demand a lot from a person. So, you’re prone to experiencing health problems. Besides, sleep in the military is another concern. 

While it’s not uncommon for army personnel to experience restlessness, most soldiers have insomnia and other sleep disorders. 

This guide will highlight the common sleep problems soldiers encounter and a few tips for better sleep in the military. 

Why Do Military Members Have Trouble Sleeping?

Research shows that 60% of military personnel sleep less than 6 hours per night. It is easy to think that they sleep well due to their regimented schedule; in reality, many have difficulty sleeping. 

So, what are some common reasons for sleeplessness in military personnel? Here are a few factors that contribute to the cause:

Military helmets.

Major Combat Operations. How can you expect military personnel to fall asleep during a military operation? Amidst the war, a soldier’s top priority is to fight and make the mission successful. Everything else is secondary. 

Deployment. In Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), the average US soldier slept for around 5.8 hours. Serving keenly in the combat field demands a great deal of commitment and leaves no time to rest. 

Training. A night of strenuous physical and weapon activity can leave the soldiers sleepless. As such, members might only get a few hours to sleep. 

Before we come to that, let’s see how much sleep an average adult needs. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that an average adult needs sleep of 7 hours or more. So, are the military members getting the required amount of sleep? 

As discussed earlier, on average, 60% of military members sleep only for six hours or less, which is less than the recommended amount of sleep for an adult.

While we’ve outlined the sleep needs of an adult, a study shows that people involved in physically demanding activities (like the military) may need more sleep

Thus, we can estimate that a military member needs between 8-9 hours of sleep daily to maintain good health. But are they getting that? I’m afraid not. 

Can You Have Sleep Apnea in the Military? 

Sleep apnea occurs when breathing suddenly stops and starts during sleep. If you snore loudly, experience a dry mouth, and wake up with a headache, you’re likely to have sleep apnea. 

While sleep apnea may not affect your ability to fall asleep, you will likely experience discomfort and sleep disruptions. 

So, can you have sleep apnea in the military? Yes! A study found that the most common sleep disorder among service members was obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), followed by insomnia. 

The percentage of the former condition was 51.2% while the latter one was 24.7% respectively. 

Additionally, the San Diego Union-Tribune Newspaper notes that Sleep apnea is becoming common in African Americans, senior officers, and Army personnel. 

So, it’s not uncommon for military personnel to experience sleep apnea. In fact, it is a typical sleeping disorder that many soldiers encounter. 

Let’s dig into a few sleep tips for military personnel. 

Tips for Better Sleep in the Military

Lack of sleep in the military will not only reduce your physical performance but alter your eating habits and lead to more stress. Therefore, it is essential to get an adequate 7 plus hours of sleep. 

If you’re on a combat mission, you might not be able to stick with the routine, though. However, a few sleep tips below will help you once you’re back on track. 

Relax Yourself

Yes, it is easier said than done. 

While you’re out there, training hard, firing bullets, using weapons, it can get hard to relax. But once you get to sleep, make sure you value that precious time. 

Think of it as your “Me Time,” and you have to make the most out of it. Figure out what relaxes you. 

Is it soft music? Your favorite book? Art? Or a phone call with a family member? 

Find a Comfortable Place

Though finding a comfortable place is difficult, it isn’t impossible. 

At the very least, you can keep your surroundings tidy. Remove any dust, debris, or stones lying around. Don’t worry if your military partner gives you a stare. Tell him you’re on a mission – a mission to sleep well and stay healthy.  

Get a Power Nap

Missions require you to stay awake and increase your performance. In such times, you can take short naps whenever possible. 

Soldier sleeping on ground.

While it may be tough to sleep at night during combat, you can get a power nap during the day whenever you get a chance. Taking naps will keep you from falling asleep at night. (when the nature of your job demands so!)

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Get Rid of Distractions

If these tips for better sleep are already on your list, do not forget to include another: eliminate distractions. 

Distractions are different for everyone; however, here are a few things you can look into. Make sure to:

  • Block out the light 
  • Reduce Noise
  • Put your gadgets away 
  • Adjust the temperature according to your preferences

Additional tip: Once you’re all set to sleep, try not to overthink. Clear your mind and let go of annoying thoughts. However, the key is to relax. Be careful not to push yourself too hard because you may end up keeping yourself awake instead. 

Furthermore, you can check the revised Holistic Health and Fitness manual that offers sleep guidance and encourages better sleeping habits.

Closing Notes

A good night’s sleep is vital to both physical and mental health. Staying fit and performing better in the military will require quality sleep. 

Hopefully, the above sleep tips will help you get a better night’s rest. However, if none of these approaches works, you should speak with your doctor.

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