Military personnel must maintain physical performance despite exposure to operational stressors such as sleep loss, caloric restriction and high cognitive load. Habitual sleep and specific sleep features are positively associated with fitness and may contribute to physical performance in operational settings. Further, by affecting muscle recovery, sleep may contribute to the ability to maintain performance across multiple days of exposure to operational stressors.
We examined the role of individual differences in baseline sleep on baseline physical performance and on change in physical performance throughout exposure to simulated military operational stress (SMOS).
Military personnel (36 male, 9 female, 26.3 ± 5.3 years) completed a 5-day SMOS protocol during which they completed a tactical mobility test daily. Sleep questionnaires were administered at intake and sleep was monitored each night with polysomnography. Lasso regressions were used to identify meaningful predictors of physical performance at baseline and of change in physical performance across SMOS.
Better aerobic fitness, lower daytime sleepiness (Epworth Sleepiness Scale), and lower absolute slow wave activity (0.5-4 Hz) predicted better physical performance at baseline (66.1% of variance explained), but did not relate to changes in performance.
Collectively, higher daytime sleepiness and slow wave activity may reflect more chronic exposure to insufficient sleep and higher baseline sleep drive, which in turn led to compromised physical performance. The findings suggest that low self-report sleepiness and low objective slow wave activity may reflect two quantifiable markers of healthy sleep behaviors that have implications for operational performance.
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Published online: December 09, 2022
Accepted: October 30, 2022
Received in revised form: October 13, 2022
Received: May 26, 2022
© 2022 National Sleep Foundation. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.