Research Summaries

Back Reducing Sleep Inertia

Fiscal Year 2021
Division Graduate School of Operational & Information Sciences
Department Operations Research
Investigator(s) Shattuck, Nita L.
Sponsor Naval Medical Research Center (Navy)
Summary In military operations, unanticipated events require personnel to awaken unexpectedly. Under these circumstances, personnel are forced to make critical decisions and react within seconds at any hour and degree of fatigue. Such was the case for the commanding officers and crewmembers of two US Navy Destroyers, USS FITZGERALD and USS JOHN S. MCCAIN, involved in two separate and fatal collisions with commercial shipping vessels in 2017. Many of the crewmembers were awakened by the jolting impact when the massive steel hull of their warship crashed into an even larger steel structure. As the noise and chaos that accompanies emergency situations settled out, the tragedy became evident: 17 sailors were lost and both warships sustained tremendous damage. Almost certainly, some of the confusion during the events was caused by sleep inertia.
Even in less stressful circumstances, military personnel are often expected to be able to awaken from a sleep period and perform complex cognitive tasks on demand. Unfortunately, when the human brain switches from sleep to the waking state, it is always accompanied by some level of sleep inertia or ⿿sleep drunkenness⿝ (Trotti, 2017). Sleep inertia is that feeling of grogginess and disorientation that occurs when one is awakened from sleep and is especially pronounced when an individual is awakened from deep stages of sleep. It is characterized by mental confusion, cognitive impairment and degraded decision-making and can last from several minutes up to over an hour in length (Bruck & Pisani, 1999; Horne & Moseley, 2011; Miccoli, Versace, Koterle, & Cavallero, 2008). Sleep inertia is further exacerbated when the individual is significantly sleep-deprived; it is most intense when an individual is awakened from their biological night (Sheer, Shea, Hilton, & Shea, 2008).
To date, efforts to reduce sleep inertia include adjusting the timing of the awakening from naps and the administration of caffeine post-awakening (Dinges, Orne, & Orne, 1985; Hilditch, Centofanti, Dorrian, & Banks, 2016; Hilditch, Dorrian, & Banks, 2016). Neither of these approaches will tackle the sleep inertia problem faced in highly demanding operational environments in which an individual may be awakened at any point in time and is expected to perform immediately upon awakening. It is not always possible to predict when an awakening will be necessary; and caffeine takes around 30 minutes to achieve its full alerting effect. The US Navy needs an operationally viable countermeasure to help individuals recover more quickly from sleep inertia. Such a tool would be of tremendous benefit to a wide range of military professions.
This project will identify, test and evaluate various sleep inertia countermeasures to ascertain potential solutions that could be applied in operational settings. Possible sleep inertia countermeasures include stimulating multiple sensory modalities to include visual, auditory, olfactory, and somatosensory systems. In addition, the project will provide recommendations to assist leadership as they make decisions about how best to reduce the deleterious effects of sleep inertia.
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Publications Publications, theses (not shown) and data repositories will be added to the portal record when information is available in FAIRS and brought back to the portal
Data Publications, theses (not shown) and data repositories will be added to the portal record when information is available in FAIRS and brought back to the portal