Sleep Like a Soldier: The Science Behind the Military Method for Fast Sleep

Krgoswami
6 min readNov 15, 2023
Photo by Jon Robinson on Unsplash

“Sleep is the Swiss army knife of health.”

- Matthew Walker

The life of a soldier is an arduous journey, characterized by challenges and hardships that sculpt not only physical prowess but also instill invaluable lessons in etiquette and manners. Amidst the rigors of military service, one cannot discount the cultivation of certain desirable habits, ranging from refined dining table manners and effective communication skills to the conscientious pursuit of a healthful diet. However, in the crucible of military life, one aspect that often stands as both a vital necessity and a learned discipline is the art of mastering optimal sleeping patterns and relaxation techniques.

Allow me to expound upon the intricacies of the soldier’s approach to the realm of sleep. In the military, where physical and mental resilience is paramount, the significance of a well-regulated and restorative sleep routine cannot be overstated. The demanding nature of military duties necessitates a profound understanding of the profound impact that sleep, or the lack thereof, can exert on performance, decision-making, and overall well-being.

Soldiers are schooled in the art of disciplined sleep, recognizing that quality rest is not merely a luxury but a strategic imperative. This education encompasses a spectrum of practices, from cultivating a consistent sleep schedule that aligns with operational demands to establishing an environment conducive to tranquillity and relaxation. The soldier’s commitment to sleep hygiene extends to meticulous attention to details such as optimal sleep duration, the creation of comfortable sleep space, and the incorporation of relaxation techniques to alleviate the stresses inherent in their demanding profession.

In essence, the soldier’s approach to sleeping patterns is a multifaceted discipline, intertwining the physiological requirements of the body with the psychological fortitude demanded by military life. Through the cultivation of these habits, soldiers not only enhance their well-being but also fortify their readiness for the challenges that the rigors of service may present.

In the crucible of military service, where every facet of life is a lesson, the soldier emerges not only as a guardian of nations but as a disciple of holistic discipline, embodying the ethos that the foundation of strength lies not only in the body’s endurance but also in the mind’s ability to rejuvenate through the restorative embrace of well-earned repose.

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We, the Sloths

During my initial training in the Indian Air Force, the regimen was as rigorous as it was disciplined. Each day commenced with the sharp trill of a whistle, beckoning us to rise at 4 am for a health run. Following this early morning exertion, a regimented schedule unfolded, with a parade scheduled at 7:30 am, preceded by a fortifying breakfast. The day continued with physical training sessions at 5 pm, interspersed with a variety of indoor stadium activities. Despite the intensity of these engagements, the routine left little room for leisurely pursuits such as reading newspapers or magazines.

However, as the clock struck 10 pm and the day’s commitments concluded, a profound sense of weariness would settle in, ushering in a nightly ritual reminiscent of the sloth. Much like these arboreal mammals indigenous to Central and South America, renowned for their proclivity for extensive rest, I, too, found myself succumbing to a deep and restorative slumber. Sloths, fascinating creatures known to spend a remarkable 15 to 20 hours in repose, serve as an apt metaphor for the profound rest that followed the demanding days of military training. The bed, akin to the sloth’s sanctuary in the trees, became a haven of respite, where the trials of the day melted away in the embrace of undisturbed sleep.

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Common Sleeping Problems

There are several common sleeping problems, also known as sleep disorders, that can significantly impact an individual’s ability to get restful and sufficient sleep. Here are some major sleeping problems and potential solutions:

  1. Insomnia:

Problem: Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.

Solutions:

Establish a consistent sleep schedule.

Create a relaxing bedtime routine.

Limit caffeine and electronic device use before bedtime.

Ensure a comfortable sleep environment.

  1. Sleep Apnea:

Problem: Pauses in breathing during sleep.

Solutions:

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy.

Lifestyle changes, such as weight loss and positional therapy.

Surgery may be considered in severe cases.

  1. Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS):

Problem: Uncomfortable sensations in the legs, leading to an irresistible urge to move them.

Solutions:

Regular exercise.

Warm baths.

Medications prescribed by a doctor.

  1. Narcolepsy:

Problem: Excessive daytime sleepiness, sudden loss of muscle control (cataplexy), and disrupted sleep.

Solutions:

Stimulant medications.

Scheduled naps.

Lifestyle adjustments, such as regular sleep patterns.

  1. Sleepwalking and Sleep Talking:

Problem: Performing activities or talking during sleep.

Solutions:

Ensure a safe sleep environment.

Address stress and anxiety.

Consider behavioral therapies.

  1. Circadian Rhythm Disorders:

Problem: Misalignment of the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle with external time cues.

Solutions:

Gradual adjustments to sleep schedule.

Exposure to natural light in the morning.

Melatonin supplements under medical guidance.

  1. Shift Work Sleep Disorder:

Problem: Difficulty sleeping due to working non-traditional hours.

Solutions:

Maintain a consistent sleep schedule.

Create a dark and quiet sleep environment.

Limit caffeine intake during the latter part of the shift.

  1. Sleep Talking:

Problem: Talking during sleep.

Solutions:

Stress management techniques.

Ensure a comfortable sleep environment.

Address underlying sleep disorders.

  1. Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS):

Problem: Inability to fall asleep until late at night, leading to difficulty waking up in the morning.

Solutions:

Gradual adjustments to sleep schedule.

Exposure to bright light in the morning.

Melatonin supplements under medical guidance.

It’s important to note that if someone is experiencing persistent sleep problems, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and personalized treatment plan. Lifestyle changes, sleep hygiene practices, and, in some cases, medical interventions can significantly improve sleep quality.

Military Method of Sleeping

The “military method” for falling asleep quickly, popularized by the US Army and documented in Lloyd Bud Winter’s 1981 book “Relax and Win: Championship Performance,” is designed to help individuals relax and ease into sleep in a short amount of time, often within ten seconds to a maximum of two minutes.

Here are the basic steps of the military method:

  1. Relax your face muscles: Start by relaxing all the muscles in your face, including your tongue, jaw, and the muscles around your eyes.

Drop your shoulders as low as they can go: Let go of any tension in your shoulders and allow them to drop naturally.

  1. Relax your arms: Release the tension in your arms. Let them fall to your sides in a comfortable position.

Breathe out, and relax your chest: Take a deep breath in, and then breathe out slowly, allowing your chest to relax.

  1. Relax your legs: Let go of any tension in your thighs, calves, and feet. Allow your legs to become heavy and relaxed.
  2. Clear your mind for 10 seconds: Once you have completed the physical relaxation steps, focus your mind on clearing any thoughts for about 10 seconds. If any thoughts come back, simply acknowledge them and let them go.

The key to the military method is to systematically relax each part of your body, combined with a brief moment of mental focus. This process is designed to help individuals let go of physical and mental tension, promoting a state of relaxation conducive to falling asleep quickly.

It’s important to note that individual experiences may vary, and while this method has been reported to be effective for some people, others may find different relaxation techniques more suitable for them. Experimenting with various methods and finding what works best for you is essential for improving sleep quality.

I wish you a very healthy sleeping pattern.

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Krgoswami

Former aircraft engineer IAF, Retired Branch Manager SBI, Psychologist, Best Selling Author & Defence Recruitment Trainer https://krgoswami.com