US Navy’s new better-rest-at-sea policy

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The Navy’s surface forces have released a new instruction that seeks to further ensure that sailors are getting consistent rest at sea, Navy Times reports.

The new instruction directs Naval Surface Force Atlantic and Naval Surface Force Pacific to use watch rotations that align with the body’s natural circadian rhythm, which generally means standing watch and sleeping at the same time in each 24-hour cycle, while having a supporting schedule that protects these vital sleep periods, Dr. John P. Cordle, SURFLANT’s human factors engineer and a retired surface warfare officer, said in a release announcing the new instruction.

While the instruction notes that “warfighting, readiness and elite performance” are a priority for the surface fleet, such goals aren’t possible when sailors are getting erratic rest time, the release states.

A circadian watch rotation can be rolled out in a variety of ways, including using a three-on/nine-off rotation in four sections, or a four-on/eight-off rotation in three sections.

Shipboard leaders should make these changes not only for their sailors, but for themselves, Cordle notes.

“If you work too hard, don’t sleep, don’t eat properly, and don’t exercise, you’re going to be unfit, and there’s going to come a time when you’re the last person between your ship and disaster,” he said. “And you’re going to make a bad decision because you let yourself get in a bad place, and somebody could get hurt or killed. You’ve let the crew down.”

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