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The challenge of sleep management in military operations.

Publication Status: Published

Sponsoring Organization: Defense Health Agency (formerly TRICARE Management Activity)

Sponsoring Office: Walter Reed National Military Medical Center

Congressionally Mandated: No

Funding Source: Defense Health Agency (formerly TRICARE Management Activity)

Release Date/Publication: October 01, 2013

Principle Investigator Status: Government

Primary DoD Data Source: Review

Secondary DoD Data Source:


It has long been known that short-term (days) insufficient sleep causes decrements in mental effectiveness that put individuals at increased risk of committing errors and causing accidents. More recently, it has been discovered that chronic poor sleep (over years) is associated with a variety of negative health outcomes (metabolic syndrome, obesity, degraded behavioral health). Implementing an effective sleep health program is, therefore, in the best interests of active duty personnel and their families both in the short- and long-term. Like managing physical activity or nutrition, effectively managing sleep health comes with its unique set of challenges arising from the fact that individuals who routinely do not obtain sufficient sleep are generally desensitized to feeling sleepy and are poor at judging their own performance capabilities--and individuals cannot be compelled to sleep. For these reasons, an optimally effective sleep health program requires 3 components: (1) a rigorous, evidence-based sleep education component to impart actionable knowledge about optimal sleep amounts, healthy sleep behaviors, the known benefits of sleep, the short- and long-term consequences of insufficient sleep, and to dispel myths about sleep; (2) a nonintrusive device that objectively and accurately measures sleep to empower the individual to track his/her own sleep/wake habits; and (3) a meaningful, actionable metric reflecting sleep/wake impact on daily effectiveness so that the individual sees the consequences of his/her sleep behavior and, therefore, can make informed sleep health choices.


Wesensten NJ, Balkin TJ. The challenge of sleep management in military operations. US Army Med Dep J. 2013 Oct-Dec:109-18.

Last Updated: February 21, 2019

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