As is evident from current military operations that are happening around the globe (e.g., Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea), today’s military is being called on in numerous new and innovative ways (e.g., Foster & Lindsay, 2011). One of the primary forces behind this change is the pervasiveness of enhanced information systems. In fact, the concept of networked warfare is the basis of operations and doctrine for the armed forces (Wesensten, Belenky, & Balkin, 2005). With respect to Admiral Cebrowski’s quote, it appears that this notion of information in warfare is going to continue to influence the way that we approach and conduct war for the foreseeable future. While this use of information and information systems have been used successfully in recent operations (Cammons, Tisserand, Williams, Seise, & Lindsay, 2006), it must always be considered with respect to the operational context. This context is made up of the military’s primary weapon system (the individual solider) and the features of the operational environment in which they are expected to perform.
Within the context of current military operations, the individual combatant is experiencing demands never before seen by predecessors. While deployments and warfare are certainly not new to military personnel, expectations regarding the use and processing of information during these operations is at an unprecedented level. These changing expectations regarding information processing have virtually transformed the soldier into a ‘‘cognitive platform’’. While this platform is certainly the most capable the world has ever seen, there are factors which limit this platform’s warfighting capability. These include such factors as nutritional or caloric deficiencies, dehydration, psychological stressors, carrying excessive loads, and hypothermia (Lieberman et al., 2005; Meyerhoff et al., 2000; Wesensten et al., 2005). Another key factor is sleep. While sleep is a basic physiological need that is usually regulated by the individual, in a military environment conditions often dictate how much sleep is obtained (and the quality of that sleep), independent of the individual military member’s personal needs or desires. Somewhat absent, however, is a critical examination of the impact of sleep loss on this "new" cognitive platform in today’s military environment. While some research has been done to address pieces of this issue (Wesensten et al., 2005), there are still many gaps that remain. Therefore, the purpose of this review is to briefly examine what is known about the effects of sleep and predict the implications of restricted sleep and sleep loss in this informationally-enhanced environment. In order to do this, three areas need to be examined in greater detail: the current operational military environment, the amount of sleep required, and sleep loss and its subsequent effects on cognitive functioning and resulting decision making in such an environment. Finally, implications in light of this information and attempts at mitigation are suggested.
Lindsay, Douglas R. and Dyche, Jeff
"Sleep Disturbance Implications for Modern Military Operations,"
Journal of Human Performance in Extreme Environments: Vol. 10
, Article 2.
Available at: http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/jhpee/vol10/iss1/2