Not enough sleep is “more the rule than the exception” in the military, according to a new Defense Department report to Congress.
The report to House Armed Services Committee leaders found that sleep deprivation can contribute to “development of PTSD, depressive disorders and risk for TBI” and individuals in the military are twice as likely to sleep less than seven hours per night than civilians.
The report was ordered under the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, calling for an analysis of the effects of sleep deprivation on readiness in the military.
The Defense Department found causes of sleep deprivation among troops that likely have existed for decades largely unchanged, if not worsened, including “austere deployment and training environments, cross-time zone travel and its impact on circadian rhythm, operational and occupational requirements such as operations tempo, and inhospitable sleep environments” to name just a few.
The Pentagon also acknowledged that these conditions contribute to service members’ increasing, “pervasive” dependence on “stimulants and hypnotics” such as caffeine pills, energy drinks and sleeping pills to cope with the demands placed on them, “but such pharmaceutical interventions offer short-term solutions and are neither intended nor suitable for sustained implementation,” the report said.
“Sleep may be the most important biological factor that determines service member health and combat readiness,” according to the report. “The majority of service members report they receive less sleep than needed to perform their military duties well.”
While some short-term sleep deprivation may be “an unavoidable cost” of operational and training demands on the military to ensure it remains always ready, “it is likely that prolonged and chronic sleep deprivation has the opposite effect on the readiness of the U.S. Armed Forces,” according to the report.
As in other sleep deprivation studies, the Defense Department’s findings include that impairment from sleep deprivation can equal the effects of being drunk and signfiticantly increase the risk of injury.
And the deliveries of cases of energy drinks aren’t helping.
“To counteract the effects of sleep deprivation, service members consume large amounts of caffeine,” the report said. “However, caffeine countermeasures cannot replace the need for sleep, and overuse of this stimulant drug in military settings can disrupt sleep patterns and increase levels of sleep deprivation.”
Energy drinks, for example, can bring significant health risks in some cases, up to and including cardiac arrest and other heart conditions.
Continued sleep deprivation can exacerbate serious medical and psychological health conditions and symptoms, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder…