In an excellent article in the Sunday Edition of Stars and Stripes (5/20/07), the authors take a look at what I feel is one of the more important aspects of America’s well being, their soldiers' sleep. We all know that sleep in or on the field of battle can be a horrible and scarce experience at best, but now it is even more difficult.
In the past several months, under the new Baghdad security plan (to create new combat outposts and joint security stations in the city of Baghdad to help slow the feud between Sunni and Shite Muslims), the soldiers are now running double duty.
First they patrol the surrounding neighborhood, then they come back to the station and have to stand guard for a second shift.
When they do get to go to a larger base, they are so busy doing all of the normal things we try to do (email, shower, laundry), they actually do not have time to sleep.
As crazy as this may seem, the Pentagon has no policy requiring servicemen and women in a war zone to get a particular amount of sleep. Basic rules for ground troops is 4 in 24, or 4 hours within 24 hours. Some soldiers say that this rule has been misinterpreted to mean that one can go on 4 in 24 for an indefinite period of time.
We know this cannot be true, and it will compromise the safety of not just the soldiers themselves but those around them as well, since we know that sleep deprivation affects reaction time, mood, and critical thinking skills.
To add to the misery, even if they have the time to sleep, they may not have a suitable environment, or may be unable to sleep due to nightmares from what they have experienced.
Oftentimes the best thing for them to do is nap. A quick power nap can really make a difference. The new saying appears to be:
“Nap early, and Nap often” -- sound like good advice.