It's been just about two years since the twin collisions of the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain with commercial vessels, and the Navy has made a wild discovery in its quest to improve watchstander performance: sleep matters!
In January 2018, the Navy switched over to watch rotations based on the body's natural circadian rhythm in an effort to improve readiness and avoid subsequent surface mishaps. And by golly, it's working! USNI News reports from the USS Gravely:
A year and a half after surface navy leadership demanded ships implement new work schedules to ensure sailors got enough sleep, officers aboard a destroyer say the new scheduling has made them more effective at sea and they're not looking back.
Among the findings in deep-dive looks at the surface navy following two fatal collisions in 2017 was the fact that many officers were standing watch during pivotal evolutions – refuelings at sea (RAS), strait transits, pulling into port – on little or no sleep. With the medical community firmly stating that being sleep-deprived can impact alertness and performance in ways similar to drinking alcohol, the Navy ordered in late 2017 that all surface ships create a watch standing schedule that allowed sailors to sleep at the same time every night with seven hours of uninterrupted sleep.
To be fair, the USNI News report provides a fascinating look at how the Navy is approaching the new sleep schedule. But even so, it seems the big takeaway for Navy officials over the last two years is that getting more sleep on a natural cycle is ... good?
Read the full USNI News story here.