Latest Surface Navy Sleep Policy Aims for Better-Rested, More Alert, Healthier Crews - USNI News (2023)

Cmdr. Jeffrey Servello, executive officer aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Paul Ignatius (DDG-117), conducts a berthing inspection on Sept. 5, 2020. US Navy Photo

The Navy’s surface fleet has a new set of orders that updates a sleep policy to give sailors on watch rotations a bit more sleep and create a culture supporting a more ready, rested and focused seagoing force.

The “Comprehensive Crew Endurance Management Policy,” signed off Dec. 11 by Naval Surface Force Pacific and Naval Surface Force Atlantic, is the first update to the joint instruction issued just months after two 2017 fatal at-sea collisions rocked the Navy.

The latest directive takes aim at tackling the problem of fatigued watchstanders in an often-sleep-deprived force. The Navy wants ship crews to be operationally ready by getting more restful sleep, staying physically active and eating nutritiously – all part of the concept of “crew endurance” that officials believe will lead to safer operations and reduce risks of errors or mishaps.

“This is not a sleep instruction. This is an endurance instruction,” said retired Capt. John Cordle, a former ship commander who retired in 2013 and last summer took the job of human factors engineer, a new position at SURFLANT’s safety department in Norfolk, Va. Cordle, along with his counterpart at SURFPAC, helped lead the update to the 2017 instruction.

“We took a look at the instruction as it was. We took a look at what we’ve learned in the last three years. We reached out to the experts,” including the Crew Endurance team at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., and the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego, as well as the National Transportation Safety Board and National Institute of Health, Cordle told USNI News. “How can we make this instruction better, using science and research that we’ve done (and) what we’ve learned in three years? So that was the genesis of the rewrite.”

The underlying premise of the 2017 instruction, issued by then-SURFOR Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, hasn’t changed significantly. The goal remains the management of healthier, less fatigued crews. The revised policy takes a more holistic view to tackle fatigue and incorporates NPS’s “Crew Endurance Best Practices” on napping, sleep hygiene, physical activity and nutrition. But it also reinforces individual responsibility.

“It is the responsibility of every sailor to take advantage of sleep opportunities. Sailors who are provided with protected sleep periods but deliberately use them for other purposes are subjecting themselves, their shipmates and their ship to unnecessary risks,” the instruction states. And “COs and commanders will ensure that all personnel are trained on the facets of crew endurance, especially the overall risk that fatigue presents to the ship, their crewmates and themselves.”

Example of a ships watch under a 4/8 sleep schedule from 2017 Crew Endurance Handbook.

It directs that commanders should establish watch rotations schedules that implement that natural sleep-awake conceptas well as “a supporting schedule to make sure that folks have an opportunity to sleep,” Cordle said.

It also emphasizes a renewed risk-management matrix for commands crafting watch bills based on the 24-hour internal “circadian” clock. The matrix weighs each watchstander’s watch-to-rest ratio, experience, crew coherence and equipment to determine risks and mitigation, such as swapping out an inexperienced sailor or providing for additional sleep or supervision.

But how much sleep is required?

The 2017 instruction called for a minimum of seven hours of sleep – split into a five-hour sleep and two-hour nap – in a 24-hour day “under ordinary circumstances underway.” That guideline is in line with minimum seven to eight hours of daily sleep the NTSB identifies as important to reduce fatigue and ensure alertness.

But in reality, few sailors get seven uninterrupted hours of actual sleep, Cordle noted. So the new policy slightly bumps up that minimum. “Sailors must be given the opportunity to obtain a minimum of 7.5 hours of sleep per 24-hour day,” with an uninterrupted 7.5-hours or an uninterrupted 6-hour sleep period and uninterrupted 1.5-hour restorative nap, states the instruction, COMNAVSURFPACINST/COMNAVSURFLANTINST 3120.2A.

The expanded guidelines amplify fatigue’s impacts on a crew’s effectiveness, noting that sleep-deprived watchstanders are less effective, have slower reaction times and may struggle with making good decisions, and warning against a sailor’s workday that stretches beyond 12 hours. “Twelve hours is a long day,” said Cordle. “After 18 hours, you start to degrade.”

Preventative measures

USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) sits in Dry Dock 4 at Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka on July 11, 2017. US Navy Photo

The fatal 2017 collisions involving destroyers USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) and USS John McCain (DDG-56) prompted sharp criticisms and scrutiny over the Navy’s management, maintenance and training of its surface fleet and personnel. In the fallout came renewed attention to manning, training and operations, and with it a spotlight on a sleepy, fatigued force.

Those collisions weren’t the first ones caused by fatigue and lack of sleep among watchstanders. The skipper involved in the 2009 grounding of USS Port Royal (CG-73) off Hawaii reported little sleep in the days prior, for example. Fatigue and a lack of sleep are problems long identified across the military services. Sleep remains a much-studied field of science and health, including an ongoing NPS study that’s looking closely at a ship’s engineering department.

As a former ship skipper, Cordle has had first-hand experiences in the importance – and cost – of sleep at sea. In a February 2019 article in Proceedings – “Captain, Get Some Sleep!” – he recounted his own failing when, as skipper of destroyer USS Austin (DDG-79), his fatigue led to a mishap that injured one of six crew members who were tossed into the sea from their rigid-hull inflatable boat.

He’s been an advocate for measures that promote new attitudes about sleep and its importance in overall health and readiness. In an article in the January 2020 issue of Proceedings, he wrote that “fatigue is the Navy’s black lung disease” and warned that failing to take corrective actions now would be to the detriment of sailors’ long-term health.

“I really do see kind of a culture change. Certainly not all the way there yet, but there was a time … when being tired was sort of the measure of something to be proud of,” he told USNI News. “You’d hear people say, well I was up for 36 hours. Oh yeah? I was up for 40 hours. At the time, that would be something to congratulate somebody. Now, that’s something to say, well you idiot, that’s stupid, right?”

Nowadays, naps “are kind of part of the culture,” Cordle said, although he acknowledged “a cultural resistance to maybe admitting that we’re taking naps.”

“We have science to show that that’s not the way to do business,” he said. “At the end of the day, that warship is out there to be ready when missiles come inbound, when you hit something, when something bad happens (and) you have to respond.”

“You go into battle with the sleep you have,” he added, “and whether you got that in an eight-hour stint or by taking a nap, if it keeps you alert on watch, then it’s worth it.”


Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Jahlil Scantling, from Virginia Beach, Va., assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD-4), stands watch on the bridge as the ship transits the South China Sea on Oct. 12, 2019. US Navy Photo

In his job, Cordle regularly talks to ship skippers and visits with crews. “My feedback from this ships is they are implementing this,” he said, adding, “it’s more than just a watch bill. It’s the whole mindset of the prioritization of sleep and watching for fatigue.”

But while the instruction challenges COs to review schedules for meals, meetings and training events so those don’t cut into sailors’ sleep times – especially that of watchstanders – it doesn’t mandate specific schedules or actions.

“One of the things we didn’t want to do was tell commanders, ‘you shall use this watch rotation,’ ‘and people will sleep at this time,’” he said. “It’s all the broad guidelines to make sure they get enough sleep, to make sure that’s part of the planning process.”

“It makes no sense to make it a requirement if I know you can’t always meet it,” he added.

Cordle expects to see secondary benefits of more sleep and circadian watch bills benefit the fleet. One captain, he said, called it “life-changing.”

“Watch teams become coherent teams, and they start to compete with each other, and they start to workout together. They start to study together,” he said. “So when you sleep better, you learn better and you qualify better. You have more time to workout. … You can study better for your qualifications.”



Where do people in the Navy sleep? ›


Whether on a ship or submarine, Sailors are provided with sufficient living spaces. The berthing area allows you an area for storage and an assigned rack for sleeping.

What is circadian watch schedule? ›

"Circadian-based watchbill" is the term used for a work and rest schedule that conforms to a 24-hour day, allowing individuals to work, eat, and sleep at approximately the same time each day.

Where do officers sleep on Navy ships? ›

Aft of the CPO's quarters and head is Officer's Country. This passageway contains the eight staterooms where the KIDD's officers lived, two or three to a compartment, depending upon seniority. Politely called “staterooms,” these cabins functioned as sleeping quarters, lounges, and offices.

Who drives Navy ships? ›

A helmsman relies upon visual references, a magnetic and gyrocompass, and a rudder angle indicator to steer a steady course. The mate or other officer on the bridge directs the helmsman aboard merchant or navy ships.

Which military branch gets the most sleep? ›

By contrast, members of the Air Force report significantly higher rates of sleep compared with other military branches. There may be cultural and operational explanations for these sleep differences across branches – and leadership may even play a role in whether service members obtain sufficient sleep.

What time do Navy guys wake up? ›

Getting That Morning Wake-Up Call

In military basic training, there's no such thing as sleeping in. You'll get up at 5 a.m. every single day. Waking up in the morning is an adjustment process that's the same for every single basic training class.

What organ is active at 2am? ›

What organ makes you wake up at 2am? –– the hours between 1 am- 3 am are prime time for liver function. Our liver is responsible for the smooth flow of qi (in Eastern medicine, that essentially means our energy) and blood production in the body.

What are the 4 circadian rhythms? ›

Each type of biological rhythm has a certain name to show how long it lasts:
  • Diurnal (night and day)
  • Circadian (24 hours)
  • Ultradian (less than 24 hours)
  • Infradian/Circalunar (1 month)
  • Circannual (1 year)
Jun 28, 2021

What time do humans naturally wake up? ›

A typical circadian rhythm in humans is one where peak alertness is around 2-3 hours after awakening and 8-9 hours after awakening, and where fatigue is most likely at around 3 AM, if you wake up like most people do at around 7-9 AM in the morning. However, this rhythm is impacted by many factors and it can be shifted.

How do you address a Navy officer? ›

Military Titles

Warrant officers are called "Mr." or "Ms." both officially and socially. Naval officers who rank from lieutenant commander up are called "Commander." Officers below that rank are called "Mr." in conversation but are introduced and referred to by their titles.

How much sleep do Navy Sailors get? ›

Navy service members slept 5.9 hours on average, with 67% sleeping less than seven hours.

How much sleep do you get on a Navy ship? ›

“Sailors must be given the opportunity to obtain a minimum of 7.5 hours of sleep per 24-hour day,” with an uninterrupted 7.5-hours or an uninterrupted 6-hour sleep period and uninterrupted 1.5-hour restorative nap, states the instruction, COMNAVSURFPACINST/COMNAVSURFLANTINST 3120.2A.

What is the lowest position on a ship? ›

Ordinary seaman

The lowest ranking personnel in the deck department. An ordinary seaman (OS) generally helps out with work that able seamen do.

Who has most advanced Navy ships? ›

Top 10 Navies in the World
  • Nr.1 United States. The US Navy is currently the most capable navy in the world. ...
  • Nr.2 China. Chinese navy is officially called the People's Liberation Army Navy. ...
  • Nr.3 Russia. ...
  • Nr.4 Japan. ...
  • Nr.5 United Kingdom. ...
  • Nr.6 France. ...
  • Nr.7 India. ...
  • Nr.8 South Korea.

Why do Navy SEALs sleep with legs up? ›

On the legitimacy of the 8-minute nap, he says “sleeping with your legs elevated can help improve sleep onset and quality as it allows blood to flow more easily throughout the body. This is the sleep science behind the 8-minute Navy Seal nap, but that's not the only thing that makes this nap potentially effective.”

What is the hardest military branch to do? ›

Marine Corps. When it comes to hard training and marksmanship, it is the Marine Corps the toughest branch you'll encounter. It is also the hardest military branch for women because, most of the time, men dominate it.

What is the hardest military boot camp? ›

Marine boot camp is extremely challenging -- both physically and mentally -- and considered to be tougher than the basic training programs of any of the other military services.

Do navy recruits shower together? ›

There's no way out of communal showers. They're required. Everyone in your barracks will enter the shower room assigned to your barracks when commanded. The shower area is one large tiled room with multiple shower heads along the walls.

Can you go to the bathroom at night in boot camp? ›

The military is smart enough to know that human beings have the need to use the toilet throughout the day, not just at predetermined times. So they make bathrooms available for recruits at all times, day or night. If you've got to go, just ask and you'll be allowed to go.

Why wake up at 4am? ›

The hormones melatonin and cortisol regulate our sleep cycle. The rising cortisol levels around 3 AM or 4 AM with emotional sorting by the brain are probable causes why you wake up around the same time every day.

Is my Liver waking me up at 3am? ›

1-3am is the time of the Liver and a time when the body should be alseep. During this time, toxins are released from the body and fresh new blood is made. If you find yourself waking during this time, you could have too much yang energy or problems with your liver or detoxification pathways.

What organs does 4am affect? ›

The hours between 1am and 3am are governed by the liver meridian. Emotionally it is associated with anger and physically associated with your shoulder. The hours between 3am and 5am are governed by the lung meridian.

What happens to the human body at 3am? ›

Core body temperature starts to rise, sleep drive is reducing (because we've had a chunk of sleep), secretion of melatonin (the sleep hormone) has peaked, and levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) are increasing as the body prepares to launch us into the day.

What is the most common circadian rhythm sleep disorder? ›

Delayed sleep-wake phase disorder

This is one of the most common circadian rhythm disorders. If you have delayed sleep-wake phase disorder (DSWPD), you may fall asleep later than you would like and then find it difficult to wake up on time in the morning.

What is the healthiest circadian rhythm? ›

Adults should have a pretty consistent circadian rhythm if they practice healthy habits. Their bedtimes and wake times should remain stable if they follow a fairly regular schedule and aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Adults likely get sleepy well before midnight, as melatonin releases into their bodies.

What is the best time to sleep circadian rhythm? ›

When it comes to bedtime, he says there's a window of several hours—roughly between 8 PM and 12 AM—during which your brain and body have the opportunity to get all the non-REM and REM shuteye they need to function optimally.

Should you wear socks to bed? ›

Research suggests that wearing socks to bed can help people not only fall asleep faster, but sleep longer and wake up fewer times throughout the night. One study found that young men wearing socks fell asleep 7.5 minutes faster, slept 32 minutes longer, and woke up 7.5 times less often than those not wearing socks.

Is it healthier to sleep naked? ›

Research suggests that sleeping naked may potentially positively impact reproductive health, connection with a partner, and self-esteem. Currently, there isn't much scientific research studying the effects of sleeping nude, or reliable data on what percentage of people in the U.S. sleep naked.

Why do we wake up at 3am? ›

You wake up at 3am because this is the time you shift from a deep sleep into a lighter sleep. If you turn in at 11pm, by three in the morning you're mostly out of deep sleep and shifting into longer periods of lighter sleep, known as REM.

What is a bed called in the Navy? ›

The term comes from the military slang use of the term "rack" for a bed or bunk. With more than one crew member assigned to a rack, it is possible that a crew member returning from a duty shift will lie down on a rack immediately after it is vacated by another crew member about to start a shift.

Do I get my own room in the Navy? ›

Each Sailor will have a private bedroom, a private bathroom, and share a kitchen, dining area, and living room with another Sailor. However, under the Navy's Homeport Ashore initiative, Sailors assigned to ships which are in port must share a bedroom until additional funding becomes available to build new complexes.

What is the military sleep hack? ›

How do you do it? It's similar to a body scan, where you relax your body from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. First, relax your face muscles, tongue, jaw and the muscles around the eyes. Lower your shoulders as far down as they'll go, then do the same with your upper and lower arm, one side at a time.

How many hours of sleep do you get in Navy SEAL training? ›

“It's very, very difficult during 'Hell Week. ' You get 4 hours of sleep. You're not allowed to have any caffeine. Throughout the entire week, you're hungry, you're cold, you're sandy, you're wet, just the lack of sleep.

How do military fall asleep fast? ›

The military method

Exhale, relaxing your chest. Relax your legs, thighs, and calves. Clear your mind for 10 seconds by imagining a relaxing scene. If this doesn't work, try saying the words “don't think” over and over for 10 seconds.

What is the longest you can stay in the Navy? ›

Note: If otherwise eligible, members may remain in an active status until age 62. However, to receive retired pay at age 60 (or anytime before age 62), members must request transfer to Retired Reserve Status and request to receive retired pay.

How much sleep do soldiers get a night? ›

Most Soldiers report sleeping 6 to 7 hours per night, regardless of duty status. However, nearly 1 in 3 report getting less than 6 hours of sleep on weeknights/duty nights. Soldiers also report getting more sleep on weekend/non-duty nights than on weeknights/duty nights.

How do you fall asleep fast in the Navy? ›

Here is the method:
  1. Relax your entire face. Close your eyes. ...
  2. Drop your shoulders and hands. Let go of any tension. ...
  3. Exhale and relax your chest. With your shoulders and arms relaxed.
  4. Relax your legs. ...
  5. Now clear your mind. ...
  6. Try repeating the words "Don't think" for 10 seconds.
Oct 19, 2022

What do Marines call Navy guys? ›

Three such words are “gyrenes,” “jarheads,” and “grunts.” Their times of origin and usage differ somewhat, but each has the same role in the Marine Corps culture. They have become a source of pride for all Marines. ties to the U.S. Navy, Marines interacted with sailors more and more.

What do you call a Navy man? ›

What Are Navy Soldiers Called? A sailor is a member of the United States Navy. Sailor=sea=Navy.

What do you call a former Navy man? ›

A veteran is a former member of the Armed Forces of the United States (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard) who served on active duty and was discharged under conditions, which were other than dishonorable.

Can you live off base in the Navy without being married? ›

For starters, an unmarried couple cannot live on a base outside of certain extenuating circumstances that would have the non-service member defined as a caregiver for the service member's children. As a result, unmarried military couples typically live off-base.

Can Navy Lodge keep girlfriends? ›

All U.S military personel and their family can stay at the Navy Lodge with their military ID. Your friend is allowed to stay because you will be concerned her sponsor during the time you are here. When you are ready to book your reservation, please call either 1-800-NAVY-INN or 305-292-7556. Thank You.

Can I bring my girlfriend on base? ›

If you've been itching to host guests in your on-base housing, you might have asked yourself, “Can civilians get on military bases?” Yes, they can! Though we all know military members throw the best parties, you might want to invite non-military members to visit you from time to time.

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