As Sailors, sleep can seem like a luxury or low priority relative to mission demands, and surviving off of little to no sleep is often worn like a badge of honor. However, the amount of sleep the body needs doesn’t vary by individual. Sleeping only four to five hours a night can lead to loss of performance in the short and long term for anyone. In fact, sleep is so vital that even slight deprivation beyond the recommended seven to nine hours per night can negatively affect memory, mood and judgment, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).
A recent APA survey found that 21 percent of adults feel more stressed when they do not get adequate sleep and 37 percent experience fatigue or tiredness because of stress , underscoring the cyclical relationship between the two. When you’re sleepy, you may feel irritable, lack motivation, or lose patience faster than usual. These consequences impact everything from family life to mental health, potentially contributing to depression and increasing suicide risk.
To develop better sleeping habits, consider the following:
A quick nap can promote a restful night’s sleep. If you need to catch some ZZ’s, especially if you’re on a demanding or rotating work schedule, try a quick nap between 0300 and 0500 or 1300 and 1500, as these are optimal periods that can help you recharge . Maximum alertness is reduced between midnight and 0800 , so if you’re performing tasks during this period, naps are critical to reducing your sleep deficit and keeping you alert. Just don’t nap on the job!
Create an optimal environment that blocks light and limits noise. Using sleep masks and earplugs can help, especially if you may not get a full eight-hours of sleep or are sleeping during the day. Keep your room or area cool to reduce the likelihood of waking due to overheating.
Can’t sleep? Get up! Lying in bed awake can promote anxiety, making it harder to fall asleep. If you’re still awake after 20 minutes, get up and do a relaxing activity (try reading) until you feel sleepy again.
If you’re experiencing trouble sleeping, contact your local health provider to develop solutions together. For more resources, head to Naval Safety Center and Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center’s Health Promotion and Wellness Department.
 American Psychological Association. (2013). Stress in America: 2013. Stress and Sleep.
 National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. (April 2006). In Brief: Your Guide to Healthy Sleep.
 Human Performance Resource Center. (n.d.). How Much Sleep Does a Warfighter Need?