NAVAL HEALTH RESEARCH CENTER SAN DIEGO CA SAN DIEGO United States
Sleep disruption is a growing concern among military personnel. Very little is known, however, regarding sleep characteristics of military members serving in combat environments. We sought to quantify the prevalence and cognitive correlates of sleep disruption among military personnel serving in a combat zone during Operation Enduring Freedom, utilizing a cross-sectional survey of active duty and reserve U.S. Navy personnel in the Afghanistan combat theater N 6,118. Survey sleep measures included total hours of sleep per day, total hours of sleep required to feel well-rested, difficulty falling asleep, and difficulty staying asleep. The survey also measured outcomes such as accidents related to the mission. Participants reported an average of 5.9 hours of sleep per night, despite requiring on average 6.8 hours to feel well-rested. Fifty-seven percent reported getting insufficient sleep, and this interacted with mission type. Sleep disruption was associated with number of deployments, as well as number of months in a combat zone. Further, those with more sleep difficulty and disruption were more likely to have caused an accident or error that affected the mission. This study documents sleep characteristics, deployment-related correlates, and potential cognitive outcomes of sleep disruption among military members in a combat zone.