- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 1, 2020

Regular naps are crucial for U.S. soldiers, according to a major new Army report that argues some afternoon shuteye — along with regular doses of caffeine — will sustain peak cognitive awareness.

In its “Holistic Health and Fitness” manual released this week, Army leaders stressed that a full eight hours of sleep each day is critical to ensure soldiers are fully aware and can perform at their best, whatever the mission may be.

But sleeping throughout the night often isn’t an option, so the Pentagon now recommends they catch a few Z’s whenever possible.

“When regular nighttime sleep is not possible due to mission requirements, soldiers can use short, infrequent naps to restore wakefulness and promote performance,” the Army manual says. “When routinely available sleep time is difficult to predict, soldiers might take the longest nap possible as frequently as time is available. During periods of restricted sleep (6 hours of sleep or less per night), napping combined with appropriate doses of caffeine may help to sustain cognitive performance and alertness.”

Army leaders say officers should “encourage naps when appropriate,” particularly when soldiers are engaged in continuous operations that can interrupt normal sleep patterns and often require service men and women to be awake for long periods of time. Those times of “restricted sleep,” which the Army defines as six hours or fewer per night, can be effectively mitigated with naps.

The Pentagon believes the new guidelines carry benefits beyond simply ensuring a soldier is more alert during a single mission. There are long-term benefits to the new napping protocol, officials said, that will help the Army stay at its most lethal and effective.

“Importantly, the benefits of sleep banking are not limited just to the following day; such benefits have been shown to remain evident over days and weeks, and may last even longer. This is because the brain saves (or banks) sleep that it does not use the next day, and it expends that sleep during future periods of sleep loss,” the Army manual says. “Increasing the amount of sleep prior to a mission improves performance during that mission and, as a bonus, reduces the amount of sleep subsequently needed to recover from that mission.”

When deciding where to nap, Army officials said soldiers must ensure they do not sleep near parked vehicles, and that no snakes or other potentially harmful creatures are near their sleep space.

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