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Get the Edge

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Sleep is a Weapon; A Clear Mind is a Combat Edge

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“Pretending to be superhuman is very dangerous...It is time to critically reexamine our love affair with stoic self-denial.  If an adversary can turn our commanders into sleepwalking zombies...the adversary has done nothing fundamentally different than destroying supplies of food, water, or ammunition. But we must stop doing it to ourselves and handing the enemy a dangerous and unearned advantage" - Jonathan Shay

Fatigue has been shown to have repeatable, tangible and measurable negative effects on readiness, effectiveness, and safety. We are here to provide you with tools that you can use to combat fatigue, improve endurance, and Get the Edge!

Basic Rules

The Essentials

Learn about your Circadian Rhythm

Learn about your own 24-hour circadian rhythm. Learn and understand the effects of good sleep practices. Use the circadian rhythm to set the foundation for work and rest periods. Build a stable daily work schedule that maximizes rest opportunities. Minimize rotating shift changes to allow circadian rhythms to adjust to work schedules. 

 

Plan for Sleep

Obtain 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per 24-hour period. Sleep at the same time each day. Compensate for any sleep loss with either 30 minutes or 2-hour naps. Avoid light exposure before bedtime, especially blue light. Exercise, but at least 2-3 hours before your bedtime. Avoid large meals and caffeinated or alcoholic beverages before bedtime.

Optimize your Work Environment

Use bright light to improve alertness at your workplace. Only use caffeine during the first half of your workday to promote alertness.

Get Support

Get supporting analysis before you make a final decision to change the work and rest schedules of your crew.

Why CB Matters

Why Sleep and Crew Endurance Matters...

 

Operational effectiveness depends on crew endurance and crew endurance depends on sleep. If crewmembers are overly fatigued, mission accomplishment, performance, safety and personal health are in jeopardy. Morale suffers. Chronic sleep debt has long-term physical and mental health consequences and degrades total system performance.

 

What are the Solutions... 

Circadian-Based Watchbills!

"Circadian-based watchbill" is the term used for a work and rest schedule that conforms to a 24-hour day, allowing individuals to work, eat, and sleep at approximately the same time each day. When you combine the number of hours spent on watch with the number of hours off watch (whether doing other work, eating or sleeping), a circadian-based system will add up to 24 hours. The system aligns with the naturally-occurring 24-hour rhythm which drives all biological processes, down to the cellular level, therefore enabling personnel to perform at their best.

 

Numerous shipboard studies have shown the value of a circadian watchbill and schedule. However, no one size fits all - there are several common variations of watch schedules, each with its own merits and trade-offs.

Become familiar with some common watchbills and their characteristics below before choosing a schedule for your crew:

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Characteristics

  • Requires 4 watch sections. If the entire ship cannot support 4 sections, focus on control stations—OOD, EOOW, TAO to ensure there are well-rested decision makers
  • Teams stand same 2 watches each day (for example,12-03 and 00-03)
  • When rotating to a new shift, each shift rotates forward one watch by extending watches by 1 hour on rotation days. Limit the “spin” of the rotations or align with port visits so that everyone gets into the routine. Three weeks or more is better
  • Protect the sleep periods of day sleepers and encourage crew to sleep at least 7 hours each day
  • Meal hours may need to be adjusted to support hot meals for all rotations. Consider a late night hot meal too

Pros

  • Shorter watches so watch standers are more alert
  • Sailors in 3 of the 4 Watch Sections have the opportunity for a single sleep period of 7 hours or more

Cons

  • More frequent watch turnover
  • Split sleep periods are required for Watch Section 1

 

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Characteristics

  • Requires 4 watch sections.
  • Teams stand same watch each day (for example, 01-07)
  • When rotating to a new shift, each shift rotates forward
  • Limit the “spin” of the rotations or consider aligning rotation with port visits so that everyone gets into the routine. Three weeks or more is better
  • Protect the sleep periods of day sleepers and encourage crew to sleep at least 7 hours each day
  • Meal hours may need to be adjusted to support hot meals for all rotations. Consider a late night hot meal too

Pros

  • Sailors in Section 1 are allowed to get 2 extra hours of sleep to compensate for sleep loss due to night shiftwork
  • Sailors in all sections sleep in one contiguous period

Cons

  • Long duration watches

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Characteristics

  • Requires 3 watch sections
  • Teams stand the same 2 watches each day (for example, 00-04 and 12-04)
  • When rotating to a new shift, each shift rotates forward by one watch every 3+ weeks or consider aligning rotation with port visits
  • Limit the “spin” of the rotations so that everyone gets into the routine
  • Protect the sleep periods of day sleepers and encourage crew to sleep at least 7 hours each day
  • Meal hours may need to be adjusted to support hot meals for all rotations. Consider a late night hot meal

Pros

  • Sailors in Watch Section 1 are allowed to get 2 extra hours of sleep to compensate for sleep loss due to night shiftwork

Cons

  • Sailors in Watch Section 1 have to split their sleep into 2 periods
  • Meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) are served every 4 hours rather than the more conventional 6 hour delay between lunch and dinner
  • Early dinner
  • Requirement for mid-rats for Sailors who are sleeping during dinner hours
  • Ops brief after the early dinner

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Characteristics

  • Requires 3 watch sections
  • Teams stand the same 2 watches each day (for example, 01-04 and 12-17)
  • When rotating to a new shift, each shift rotates forward every 3+ weeks or consider aligning rotation with port visits
  • Limit the "spin" of the rotations so that everyone gets into the routine
  • Protect the sleep periods of day sleepers and encourage crew to sleep at least 7 hours a day
  • Meal hours may need to be adjusted to support hot meals for all rotations. Consider a late hot meal too

Pros

  • Short duration watches at night when Sailors are at their circadian low point and have the most trouble staying alert
  • Section 3 allowed to sleep until 1000 to support working the night shift

Cons

  • Sailors in all watch sections are required to split their sleep into 2 periods
  • Early dinner

d5n3

 

  • 5/10, 6/12, & 5/15 - Schedules that result in shorter than a 24-hour day impose a type of jetlag that will quickly result in an unnecessarily and extremely fatigued crew

 

in addition...

If there are enough trained watchstanders to support a 4-section watchbill, the 3/9 and 6/18 schedules are good options. The 4/8 is a 3-section option that has been used with some success.

If a 2-section watchbill (6/6, 7/5, or 12/12) is required, care should be taken to ensure that all watchstanders have protected sleep periods during their time off watch. In addition, shift rotation becomes more critical when implementing a 2-section watchbill.

For every hour of shift change it takes about a day for your circadian rhythm to adjust.

Positives

 

  • Shorter watches = Better focus

  • Stable routine = More predictability

  • Circadian sleep pattern = Better quality of rest

  • Reduced heat stress = Better effectiveness 

  • Watchteam alignment = Better training & coordination

  • Sailors prefer the 3/9 watch rotation = Improved morale

 

 

 

  • More watch turnovers 

  • Repetitive watch cycle 

  • Requires a culture shift

 

 

  • Institute crisp watch turnover policy

  • Specify watch rotation plan including direction and duration

  • Leadership support and flexibility to implementation

 

Implementation steps

Implementing a Circadian Watchbill

Steps to take for a basic implementation plan

Start planning 6 months prior to deployment

If you have the manning, establish a skeleton 4-section watchbill

Identify special teams that may be non-watchstanders (VBSS, etc. based on expected missions)

Identify divisions where 4-section watch is not possible - look at contingency plans

Empower the CPO and First Class Mess to devise a workable daily routine and submit to the XO and Senior Watch Officer

Establish priorities early in case something must drop off the schedule

Examine communication paths in case Quarters is not planned everyday

Assign PQS to support 4-section watchbill

Tailor Ship's Instruction to cover policies on watchbill and briefings/meetings

Consider berthing arrangements to allow watchstanders on similar rotations to berth together

Establish a crew training plan to share with the crew

Get feedback and check up on progress

natgeo

 

CE - get the edge - quotes
On my MCM, the watch teams - to a man - were fans of the circadian watch rotation. While our manning did not support this for all stations, it was readily apparent that it had a positive impact on key watch standers alertness and effectiveness. We SWOs should never wear fatigue as a badge of honor

- LCDR Matthew Gleason, CO USS DEXTROUS (MCM 13)

Bottom Line – I used this (3/9) because it made us better. It provided us better rest and more alert watch teams, and the ability to surge to unforeseen situations…even on an AMPHIB.

- Capt Mark Scovill, USN; CO of USS TORTUGA, USS GUNSTON HALL and IWO ARG Commodore

“3/9 is a no-brainer of a "win"... I was skeptical, but now a HUGE believer that its the only way to go”

- Capt Brad Cooper, USS GETTYSBURG (CG 64)

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