Sleep is ammunition for the brain. All Soldiers need to be physically and psychologically strong and resilient. This is especially true of those Soldiers who operate at the “tip of the spear” as members of small teams in far-forward environments where the OPTEMPO is high, the margin for error is small, and the ability to access support functions (e.g., air support, evacuations, reinforcements) is lacking. The necessity for Soldier performance during nocturnal operations introduces an additional challenges for maintaining Soldier lethality. Ironically, although sleep is critical for sustaining military performance and effectiveness under such conditions, sleep loss is all but inevitable under such conditions. Sleep is also armor for the brain. Research shows that the more sleep that military personnel obtain, the better they perform and the less vulnerable they are to development of mental disorders like PTSD and depression. An emerging body of research also suggests that good sleep is linked to the body's ability to prevent and overcome infectious disease, further underscoring its importance to overall health.
As research at WRAIR progresses to prevent, detect and treat COVID-19 infection, it is also important to recognize the significant behavioral health toll brought upon by this crisis. WRAIR is working in concert with the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command as part of the whole of United States government response to overcome the disease. This impact can be felt in a wide range of diverse groups: medical care providers on the front lines, struggling to cope with the influx of new cases; leaders trying to maintain morale and productivity in now-geographically disparate teams; workers struggling to adapt to the new realities of teleworking from home or individuals concerned about the health and safety of themselves and their families amidst the outbreak. Building on decades of experience in the field of sleep and performance, psychiatry, neuroscience and more, WRAIR scientists developed a range of checklists and other resources to help support behavioral health and well-being.
The bonds we build between co-workers, family and friends are critical to high-performing teams. Yet working closely with others conflicts with the central tenet of preventing the COVID-19 pandemic: the concept of “social distancing.” Steps like keeping connected, looking out for others, using more than email or more can help preserve mental health as we take steps like social distancing, regularly washing hands for twenty seconds and getting a full night’s sleep to stay safe from COVID-19.
WRAIR researchers are playing a key role in the ongoing COVID-19 response, building upon the Institute’s ability to rapidly respond to outbreaks on an accelerated timeline to develop diagnostics, vaccines and treatments. Since the beginning of the outbreak, WRAIR and U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command personnel have been working to advance research efforts to prevent, diagnose and treat this latest threat to global health and force readiness.
The high-quality, mentally tough Soldiers the Army requires must be able to operate in small, highly effective teams in far-forward environments, often without access to air support, evacuation and other capabilities. They must be able to remain lethal for extended periods of time otherwise they risk becoming a liability to themselves and their teammates. One of the most critical components of a maximized human performance is sleep—but fighting cannot reasonably be expected to stop to accommodate a full night’s sleep. The 2B-Alert app makes rapid, personalized recommendations around their sleep habits to support the far-forward Soldier and minimize the danger of sleep loss to themselves and their teammates.