Sleep tips from the experts

According to Army experts, Soldiers are chronically sleep deprived, averaging only about six hours a night instead of the seven to eight they need. This puts them at risk of becoming sleep casualties – anything from a Soldier who is late for formation to an accident at the range – and developing conditions like hypertension and diabetes. It also makes them less resilient. (Original U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret, 416th Theater Engineer Command. Photo illustration by Elizabeth M. Collins)

According to Army experts, Soldiers are chronically sleep deprived, averaging only about six hours a night instead of the seven to eight they need. This puts them at risk of becoming sleep casualties – anything from a Soldier who is late for formation to an accident at the range – and developing conditions like hypertension and diabetes. It also makes them less resilient. (Original U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret, 416th Theater Engineer Command. Photo illustration by Elizabeth M. Collins)

We know it can be tough to get a solid night’s sleep (experts recommend seven to eight hours). So we turned to the Army’s sleep experts and tracked down their top tips for a restful slumber.

Col. Vincent Mysliwiec, M.D., sleep medicine specialist, 121st Combat Support Hospital, U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan, Seoul, South Korea

  • Remove the clock from your sight. It should not be in arm’s reach and you should not be able to see it. There’s no benefit to waking up in the middle of the night and looking at the clock. It activates your mind and does not contribute to you sleeping.
  • It’s not always about the clock. There are nights when you’re not going to sleep as well as you’d like, but you can get five hours of sleep because you’ve got mission requirements. Quality sleep is what matters over time. It’s not always the quantity. Understanding that concept, I think, is very important.
  • Everyone will have bad nights of sleep at any given time. You have to recognize that. I had a bad night’s sleep, but that means I’m more likely to sleep better the following night.
  • Don’t take medicines, over the counter or otherwise, to help you sleep, nor alcohol or other artificial aids. That is not good, natural sleep. We want good, natural sleep.
  • Establish a regular, nightly sleep practice. This is especially important for our younger Soldiers. You have to train the way you fight. For sleep, it’s you go to bed at 2200 and you wake up at 0600 every day. On the weekends, you don’t go out until 1, 2, 3:00 in the morning, because you will develop social jet lag that makes you less likely to fall asleep on Sunday and Monday nights, which contributes to poor sleep quality and a decreased ability to perform your military duties.

Lt. Col. Ingrid Lim, sleep lead for the Army’s Performance Triad and a clinical psychologist

  • No TV in the bedroom, no electronics.
  • Have a sleep routine. A healthy sleep routine facilitates going to bed. Some folks, they tidy the kitchen, turn off all the lights, take a shower. They read a book or talk to their partner, and then they turn off the light and go to sleep.
  • No caffeine six hours before going to bed.
  • Exercise, but not within three hours of bed. Exercise is one of the best things you can do to improve your sleep.
  • This is the hard one: Get up the same time all week, including the weekend. Whatever time you go to bed, get up the same time. So even if you were out partying at 1:00 in the morning, still get up at 5:00, 6:00. Take a nap during the day if you must to make up that seven to eight hours, but you need to have the same bed and wake time all week.

If you have sleep problems that last more than three to four weeks, Mysliwiec advises making an appointment with your primary care provider. To learn more about how sleep is crucial to resilience and staying strong, read “Army experts say sleep helps Soldiers build resilience, strength,” or visit the Army’s Performance Triad website.

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