Elite military personnel learn how to deal with some of the most challenging conditions imaginable. The Australian Special Air Service Regiment (SAS), American Navy SEALs and the British Special Boat Service (SBS) are all expected to triumph over feats of human daring in their training. Even though these fighters are some of the toughest men and women on earth, even they struggle to cope with sleep deprivation.
Often, these elite soldiers are forced to endure days at a time without any sleep at all. Add to this, exposure to extreme heat or cold, being expected to carry heavy backpacks full of equipment and having to sit, soaked in water.
Snipers are trained to stay awake for up to 72 hours in order to focus completely on their intended target. One of the techniques they use is ‘fantasy integration’. They are taught to create scenarios in their mind that involve keeping the target at the front of their mind the whole time. They imagine engaging in a time-consuming and complex task with them such as putting together a car from scratch. Their immunity from distractions becomes one of their greatest skills.
Obviously, military medics are aware that sleep deprivation is a serious issue that impacts on human health but it’s all part of the deal in the special forces. In fact, SEAL recruits must endure ‘Hell Week’, seven whole days and nights of mental and physical torture. A former SEAL in the Sniper Corps wrote in his memoir, The Red Circle that the course is designed for a male with average athleticism to be able to complete it. The secret, he reveals, is in the power of the mind.
Extreme mental resilience is among the most highly regarded attributes of a fully-fledged Navy SEAL. It’s considered to be an extraordinary advantage in the field of war. One of the best ways to impact mental resilience is through sleep deprivation. (Any parent of a newborn will tell you that!)
Many elite forces personnel admit that the rigorous training didn’t affect them as much as the chronic – enforced – sleep deprivation. They report experiencing extreme chronic anxiety, inability to manage their appetite, lack of motivation to maintain an effective workout regimen and feeling highly emotional and frequently impulsive. Headaches, insatiable hunger and visual disturbances are all commonly mentioned when discussing the effects of no sleep.
Interestingly, soldiers are also taught how to fall asleep quickly so that they can recharge and revive with minimal requirement of time.
Military technique to fall asleep in two minutes
Admittedly, it takes practise but the US Army and the US Navy Pre-Flight School train their people to fall asleep in under two minutes using this four-step method:
- Relax all your muscles in your head and face while taking slow, deep breaths. This includes mouth, tongue, cheek, jaw and forehead.
- Drop your shoulders down as far as possible and let neck muscles drop too. Starting with the dominant side, allow your bicep to feel as though it’s falling off you. Proceed to forearm, hand and fingers. Exhale your tension as you do this and then move on to the other arm.
- Now relax the lower body by focusing on feeling your right thigh muscle sink. Proceed down the leg to the knee, calf, ankle and foot. Move on to the other leg.
- Finally, clear the mind. Pay attention to the breath as it moves in and out through the nostrils. Picture a calming, relaxing image such as lying on a canoe on a quiet, flat lake looking up at the blue, cloudless sky.
Considering that military personnel have no choice but to sleep wherever they are and that you should be practising these exercises in your comfortable bed, it shouldn’t be too difficult. You don’t have to sleep in a trench, a tent, on a moving truck or in the bucket of a battlefield earthmover!
The above exercise is said to work for around 96 percent of people … but most need around six weeks of practice before they can do it.
We obviously recommend adding one of our sleep essential oil products to your bedtime ritual. Read more about them here.