What Are the Current Policies and Programs Related to Sleep in the Military?
In Chapter Four, we identified four types of policies or programs related to sleep— prevention, medical, training, and operational. Policies on the minimum number of hours of sleep required are not necessarily up to date with current research and clinical recommendations and are often embedded in broad policies on general resilience, stress management, or other mental health topics rather than focused on sleep-related behaviors.
While training policies were the most uniform in terms of the duration of sleep recommended (seven to eight hours), they focused on the initial training pipeline; subsequent training schools did not necessarily have policies related to sleep. Operational policies, the most common type of policies identified, focused on prescribing shiftwork cycles and duration of rest periods. Operational policies mandate sleep plans, but they do not give leaders further guidance on how to structure sleep plans. Further, there was inconsistency in how much emphasis was placed on sleep in each occupational area within the Services. This inconsistency may create conflict for leaders trying to integrate work schedules or manage shift work in a joint environment.
Overarching DoD medical policies related to sleep primarily set medical standards and qualifications for initial military service or referral to a medical evaluation board. Service-specific and VA medical policies on treating sleep disorders primarily mention sleep as a symptom of other conditions; no policies address continuity of care from deployment to the post-deployment period. No policies were found outside of larger reintegration or stress management guides that specifically referenced policies related to sleep in the post-deployment period. The Army Performance Triad program is perhaps the most comprehensive effort to date to promote sleep health from a prevention perspective. Although the efficacy of this program has not yet been evaluated, research efforts are under way. The program may be a useful platform for the other Services to develop similarly comprehensive sleep health promotion programs.