Morale: I'm So Tired I Could Die

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May 21, 2007: The one thing you can never get enough of in combat is sleep. Since lack of sleep is bad for performance, as well as morale, the U.S. Army has developed guidelines for dealing with lack of sleep.

First, everyone is taught what to expect from lack of sleep. After 24 hours without sleep, troops begin to lose their ability to concentrate and think clearly. This, as always, is worst between 3 AM and 6 AM. After 36 hours, there is a very obvious difficulty in understanding orders and instructions. After 72 hours, performance on most physical and mental tasks will be about 50 percent, or less, of normal and most troops will be "militarily ineffective" (more dangerous to themselves and fellow troops, than to the enemy). After three days without sleep, things can do downhill rapidly, with some troops seeing things, and others having difficulty focusing on any task. At this point, you can't expect the troops to carry on in any organized fashion. However, ten hours of uninterrupted sleep will bring full recovery to most troops who have had no sleep for 3-4 days.

It's possible to get by (perform adequately) on four hours of continuous sleep every 24 hours. This can last 3-4 weeks, but varies by individual. After troops hit their limit, performance begins to decline rapidly. At that point, a ten hour sleep (uninterrupted) is needed to restore things.

It helps to allow troops to get short naps, but this is no real substitute for hours of uninterrupted sleep. It also helps if, even when getting only four hours a day, that four hours of sleep comes at the same time of day.

Combat troops are not the only ones who encounter long periods of little or no sleep. Support troops are often required to do tedious, and/or exacting work for equally long hours. Mistakes can be just as fatal if you are driving a fuel truck, moving munitions around with a forklift, or repairing dangerous equipment. The mark of a good commander, whether it be a sergeant in charge of a squad or team, or a colonel running a brigade, is how well they look after the sleep, or lack of sleep, situation.

 


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