Alcohol or poor sleep? For the military, it just may be a game of “pick your poison” after the Army Surgeon General essentially declared that sleepy soldiers were just as impaired as drunk soldiers.
“When we’re talking about cognitive dominance [by our soldiers] you absolutely have to focus on ensuring a healthy brain, ensuring that [they] have that mental agility,” Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho said Wednesday during a presentation entitled The Human Dimension at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference in Washington, DC.
Reporter Bryant Jordan in Military.com writes that part of maintaining a healthy brain is ensuring soldiers get enough sleep. The Army has understood the importance of sleep, but Horoho said this has often been disregarded by unit leaders who believe “that we’re being effective when we’re sleep deprived.”
“If you have less than six hours of sleep for six days in a row you have a cognitive impairment of 20 percent – that you are cognitively impaired as if you had a.08 percent alcohol level,” she said. “We never will allow a soldier in our formation with a .08 percent alcohol level, but we allow it every day to make those complex decisions.”
Horoho said Army researchers and scientists are looking at ways to keep the brain healthy. This includes training in techniques to reduce stress levels and even in the development of rations intended to fuel body and brain. “I really believe this is the new frontier. I think its unknown how powerful our Army can be if we start out with a healthy brain, and take the best from industry, academia and from our Army and training. I think that’s the power we’re going to really see optimizing performance.”