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Sleep Optimization

Airmen and Guardians need to be alert. How long they sleep heavily influences their readiness.

Good quality sleep is critical to a person’s health. Sleeping well can help a person cope with stress, solve problems, and get better during an illness or when recovering from an injury. Too little sleep can result in drowsiness, irritability, and problems concentrating. A lack of sleep can also cause memory and physical problems. Sleep gives the body a chance to recharge itself. During sleep, the body restores tissue, builds bone and muscle, and strengthens the immune system. Sleep also helps the brain to function at its peak!

What happens when you sleep

Even with closed eyes, a very relaxed state of wakefulness continues during the initial phase of falling asleep. During this first stage of the five stages of sleep, the body and brain are still active. As sleep progresses, the remaining four stages are experienced. Note that each stage is different. During stages one through four, sleep slowly gets deeper and more restful. The fifth stage is known as REM sleep. REM stands for rapid eye movement. Dreams usually occur during the REM stage. While it’s common to wake as sleep shifts from one stage to the next, most people fall right back to sleep.

Sleep rhythms

Humans are naturally programmed to be awake during the day and to sleep at night. This automatic routine is called the circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm can’t be easily reversed, even during periods of shift work or working at night.

Getting enough sleep

Most of us have been taught to believe we need eight hours of sleep each night to get us through the following day. This belief can be so strong it can affect the way someone feels if they don’t get at least eight hours of nightly sleep. But the truth is that the amount of sleep required for good health and performance differs for everyone. While most experts recommend adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, some people need more, and some people need less. So, it’s important for you to determine the amount of sleep you need to feel well rested. Generally, if you don’t feel chronically fatigued, you’re probably getting enough sleep.


Tips to improve sleep habits at home

If you have trouble falling asleep:

  • Relax before bed
    • Read or write in a journal
    • Perform breathing exercises or meditate
  • Avoid stimulants for three to five hours before going to bed, such as:
    • Alcohol
    • Caffeine
    • Nicotine
  • Create a sleep-ready environment and consider using:
    • A fan to stay cool
    • A sleep mask to reduce light
    • Earplugs to reduce noise
  • Reset yourself
    • If more than 20 minutes have passed and you have not fallen asleep, get out of bed and leave the room
    • Listen to soothing music or read in low light until you become tired; then, go back to the bedroom and try again to fall asleep
  • Limit napping
    • Restrict naps to no more than 25-30 minutes to help feel rested but not groggy
    • Avoid napping in the late afternoon or evening


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