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How to Develop Healthy Sleep Habits

service members in resting position

Source: U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret

Sleep is important in life, just like air, food and water. It allows your body to heal, boosts your immune system and improves learning and memory. With healthy sleep habits, you are more likely to perform your best, whether you are at home, deployed or away for training.

Common Sleep Myths

Myth: Some people need less sleep than others to function well.

You should try to get seven to eight hours of quality sleep every 24 hours to be mission ready. Research shows that after only one day without sleep, even young, healthy service members lose 25 percent of their ability to think clearly [PDF 266.14KB].

Myth: It is better to stay awake for the entire day than to take short naps.

Any sleep is better than none. Short 10 to 30 minute naps during the day can help you recover from sleep loss, increase alertness and improve mood.

Myth: It is possible to go for long periods of time without sleep and still perform well.

You may be part of a mission or effort that requires being awake for longer periods of time. Lack of sleep and fatigue do affect your thinking process and can decrease your attention and reaction time. Proper sleep can make you feel more motivated and focused.

Tips To Improve Sleep Habits at Home

If you have trouble falling asleep:

  • Relax before bed
  • Avoid stimulants for three to five hours before going to bed, such as:
    • Alcohol
    • Caffeine
    • Nicotine
  • Create a sleep-ready environment and consider using:
    • A fan to stay cool
    • A sleep mask to reduce light 
    • Earplugs to reduce noise
  • Reset yourself
    • If more than 20 minutes have passed and you have not fallen asleep, get out of bed and leave the room
    • Listen to soothing music or read in low light until you become tired. Then, go back to the bedroom and try again to fall asleep
  • Limit napping
    • Restrict naps to no more than 25-30 minutes to help feel rested but not groggy
    • Avoid napping in the late afternoon or evening

If a nightmare wakes you up:

  • Ground yourself
    • Turn on a light and look around your room
    • Name the things you see around you: “That is my dresser. This is my bed. I am in my room.”
    • Be patient, it may take a while to remember where you are
  • Recall the nightmare
    • Write down what happened. This can make it less scary and help you calm down faster.
  • Remove yourself
    • Get out of bed and go to another room to relax

Consult a health care professional if you consistently experience trouble sleeping. It is important to take your sleep seriously. Getting enough sleep can help you stay healthy, cope with daily stresses and have a positive outlook on life.

If you struggle with sleeping, remember that reaching out is a sign of strength. Talk about your sleep concerns with a health care professional before starting any medications, supplements or sleep aids. You can also speak confidentially with a trained health resource consultant at the DCoE Outreach Center by logging on to the Real Warriors Live Chat or calling 866-966-1020.

Additional Resources

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