In the interest of soldiers’ well-being, the US Army has added a new guideline for “strategic napping” for its new FM 7-22 Holistic Health and Fitness manual. The Army released its first update to the manual in eight years in October 2020, and it has a bevy of new strategies to get soldiers to peak physical performance.
In order to better adapt to the body’s circadian rhythms and any stress on the job, leaders are now told to “give soldiers permission to nap when circumstances allow, and encourage naps when appropriate, especially during continuous operations.” The days of only worrying about jumping jacks and wind sprints are over.
The new manual has a number of new guidelines for sleep and appropriate rest and nourishment for soldiers. The manual states that “Effective leaders consider sleep an item of logistical resupply like water, food, fuel, and ammunition…Sleep is a force multiplier.” Leaders are also prompted to take into account individual soldiers’ sleep history and fatigue as much as possible. Soldiers are discouraged from texting, playing video games, or using social media before sleep, and have instead been told to relax with a long shower or soothing music.
While the military prides itself on its work ethic, recent events and new science have shown that sleep is critical to a successful mission for all branches. Fatigue was listed as a key issue during a fatal US Navy collision in 2017, and the new guidelines are cognizant that fatigued soldiers are a potentially deadly problem.
The new US Army guidelines also suggest soldiers should find time to meditate, journal, and perform “act(s) of serving others” to help with mental fatigue. These new health guidelines are designed to improve soldier performance and reduce the rate of mental illness. All of this advice on improved sleep and wellness is good for just about any person, military or civilian, and the new Health and Fitness manual is proof that the conventional wisdom has changed since the 1960s.
By Tristan Jung