Skip to main content

Military Health System

Clear Your Browser Cache

This website has recently undergone changes. Users finding unexpected concerns may care to clear their browser's cache to ensure a seamless experience.

‘Tactical Napping’ and Other Tips to Sleep Well On Deployment

Image of A trainee attempts to get a little sleep as he waits for transportation at the Joe E. Mann Ballroom Dec. 18. He is one of thousands of Initial Entry Training Soldiers across the Army who are headed home on leave for the holidays. . A trainee attempts to get a little sleep as he waits for transportation at the Joe E. Mann Ballroom Dec. 18. He is one of thousands of Initial Entry Training Soldiers across the Army who are headed home on leave for the holidays. (Robert Timmons)

Getting enough sleep is always essential for optimal performance and functioning.

But service members know that a full night's sleep is not always an option. On deployment, many things make sleep a challenge, including combat operations, long work days or 24-hour watch duty.

Service members on deployment may be anxious, concerned about their own safety or missing home. And they may face uncomfortable sleeping surfaces and unusual sleep-wake cycles.

"Sleep is an inherently vulnerable state, and in operational environments there are many factors that can make it difficult to initiate or maintain sleep," said Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Scott Williams, director of the Center for Military Psychiatry and Neuroscience (CMPN) at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Prior traumatic events or mild traumatic brain injury can also lead to additional sleeping problems.

As a result, getting proper sleep is a luxury that many service members may not always have.

"On average, military personnel sleep approximately six hours" a day, said Dr. Tom Balkin, a senior scientist at the CMPN's Behavioral Biology Branch.

An average of six hours of sleep isn't enough – at least seven hours is recommended, Williams said.

Running short on sleep could lead to poor health or poor performance. Sleep disorders can be "significant threats to readiness and lethality," according to the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research's Behavioral Biology site.

Prioritizing sleep during deployments is key to better performance, and, in the long run, a healthier military experience.

Tactical Naps

When long blocks of sleep are impractical, "the practice of tactical napping" can help reach the recommended seven hours of sleep per 24 hours, said Dr. Sara Alger, a sleep research scientist at the Behavioral Biology Branch's Sleep Research Center.

"A tactical nap is ideally in a space that is dark, quiet, and comfortable, but realistically anywhere that is safe."

These naps can also be used to get extra sleep before upcoming sleep loss, to increase alertness during major operations, and to help recover more quickly after sleep loss, said Alger.

And though napping may lead to initial grogginess when you wake up, she said, using the combination of naps and caffeine strategically can reduce that.

If you're having trouble sleeping or want to learn more, check out these resources, contact your health care provider, or fill out this sleep health assessment.

You also may be interested in...

Topic
Feb 8, 2024

Military Health System Mental Health Hub

The Military Health System has many resources available to help service members, families, or veterans who are struggling with mental health challenges.

Article Around MHS
Jan 26, 2024

Conquering Winter Blues: A Personal Triumph

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kaitlin Castillo, 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs journeyman, poses for a portrait illustrating seasonal affective disorder at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Jan. 17, 2024. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Senior Airman Kaitlin Castilo)

When the hustle and bustle of the holiday season begins to slow, a silent snowfall signals the start of another isolated winter night. This is sometimes known as seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder.

Article Around MHS
Jan 12, 2024

Love, Death, and Regrowth

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Alex Briley, a perianesthesia technician assigned to the 673d Surgical Operations Squadron, poses for a portrait at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Briley uses her personal experiences to help advocate for improved mental health, suicide awareness, and resilience amongst service members. (Photo by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Patrick Sullivan)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Alex Briley met the love of her life shortly after arriving at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, her first duty station. After her husband died by suicide, her path to wellness wasn’t a quick or easy one, but she was able to find support in the people and resources around her.

Fact Sheet
Dec 14, 2023

PTSD and Other Stress-Related Disorders Following Concussion/Mild TBI Fact Sheet

.PDF | 542.68 KB

Co-occurring concussion and stress-related disorders, including PTSD, are common among service members. This fact sheet defines concussion, also known as mild traumatic brain injury, and provides an overview of common stress-related disorders, the overlapping symptoms, and how to manage those symptoms.

Topic
Dec 1, 2023

Psychological Fitness

Psychological Fitness is your ability to integrate and improve cognitive, emotional, and behavioral practices.

Topic
Dec 1, 2023

Sleep

Mental Health related sleep content migrated from the former After Deployment web site.

DHA Publication
Nov 28, 2023

DHA Policy Memo: #23-014, Military Medical Treatment Facility Management of Self-Initiated Referral Process for Mental Health Evaluations of Service Members

.PDF | 176.30 KB
Provides information and guidance on military medical treatment facility procedures for a process that enables Service members to trigger a referral on their own for a mental health evaluation through a commanding officer or supervisor in a grade above E-5.
  • Identification #: 23-014
  • Type: DHA Policy Memo
Last Updated: September 29, 2023
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on X Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery