The Navy's Next Fix For Sleepy Crews Could Be… Rose-Colored Glasses

Analysis

It’s been a rough year for the Navy, especially the forward-deployed surface fleet. Reeling from four underway mishaps that claimed the lives of 17 sailors in 7th Fleet alone, the service enters 2018 resolved to improve safety fleetwide — which that means addressing sleep deprivation among overstretched crewmembers.


Related: Amid 7th Fleet Turmoil, Sailors Open Up About The Navy’s Silent Threat: Sleep Deprivation »

And that could mean government-issue tinted spectacles for shipboard watchstanders.

That’s one novel fix the service is looking at, according to an analysis yesterday by USNI News. “Based on initial testing,” USNI’s Ben Werner writes, “Navy researchers think wearing specially tinted glasses for an hour or two before bedtime can make falling asleep easier.”

The idea — which could be especially helpful to all those poor operations specialists in the ship’s combat information center — “is to address sailors’ ability to fall asleep after working shifts at computer screens or in artificial lighting,” Werner writes.

That’s because exposure to artificial “blue light” produced by digital screens inhibits some of humans’ natural sleep mechanisms. So even after you shut ’em off, those infernal displays are keeping you more awake than you should be. (Your smartphone manufacturers already know this; it’s why they include a “night mode” to reduce the bluetones emanating from your little timewaster in the wee hours.)

The Navy is the lead agency responsible for all the DoD’s safety-glasses requirements, so the service spent much of the past year playing with inexpensive red-brown tints on existing spectacles — which can block out up to 70% of blue light bouncing in a sailor’s direction. Tests are ongoing, but Nita Shattuck, a top sleep researcher at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, said in an April news release that “the results are very promising so far.”

Mind you, making sailors see the world through rose-colored glasses isn’t the Navy’s only new action on sleep issues — or even its most significant, long term. Last month, Vice Adm. Thomas Rowden, the commander of all surface forces, pushed out a new “Comprehensive Fatigue and Endurance Management” guidance to the fleet recommending seven hours of sleep a day for sailors “under ordinary circumstances underway” — a laudable step forward, but also a challenge for a sea service where extraordinary circumstances underway seem increasingly common.

It’s that challenge that’s leading the Navy to look at incremental, lowest-level fixes like tinted glasses. Speaking as a former operations specialist myself, I like the idea… though I’m also skeptical of wrapping sleep-enhancing spectacles around the head of an already-groggy sailor halfway through a turn on the electronic warfare console.

But the Navy already knows that. The glasses, the service conceded in a press release, would be worn only “an hour or two before bedtime,” not all the time, “since people need to be alert on the job.” Don’t worry: Nothing ever happens in that last hour or two on the midwatch, right?

U.S. Navy
An aerial view of the Pentagon building in Washington, June 15, 2005. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld defended the Guantanamo prison against critics who want it closed by saying U.S. taxpayers have a big financial stake in it and no other facility could replace it at a Pentagon briefing on Tuesday. (Reuters/Jason Reed JIR/CN)

The Pentagon is sending nearly 1,000 more troops to the Middle East as part of an escalating crisis with Iran that defense officials are struggling to explain.

While the U.S. government has publicly blamed Iran for recent attacks on merchant vessels in the Gulf of Oman, not a single U.S. official has provided a shred of proof linking Iran to the explosive devices found on the merchant ships.

At an off-camera briefing on Monday, Navy officials acknowledged that nothing in imagery released by the Pentagon shows Iranian Revolutionary Guards planting limpet mines on ships in the Gulf of Oman.

Read More Show Less
Photo: Lance Cpl. Taylor Cooper

The Marine lieutenant colonel removed from command of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in May was ousted over alleged "misconduct" but has not been charged with a crime, Task & Purpose has learned.

Lt. Col. Francisco Zavala, 42, who was removed from his post by the commanding general of 1st Marine Division on May 7, has since been reassigned to the command element of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, and a decision on whether he will be charged is "still pending," MEF spokeswoman 1st Lt. Virginia Burger told Task & Purpose last week.

"We are not aware of any ongoing or additional investigations of Lt. Col. Zavala at this time," MEF spokesman 2nd Lt. Brian Tuthill told Task & Purpose on Monday. "The command investigation was closed May 14 and the alleged misconduct concerns Articles 128 and 133 of the UCMJ," Tuthill added, mentioning offenses under military law that deal with assault and conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman.

"There is a period of due process afforded the accused and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty," he said.

When asked for an explanation for the delay, MEF officials directed Task & Purpose to contact 1st Marine Division officials, who did not respond before deadline.

The investigation of Zavala, completed on May 3 and released to Task & Purpose in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, showed that he had allegedly acted inappropriately. The report also confirmed some details of his wife's account of alleged domestic violence that Task & Purpose first reported last month.

Read More Show Less
Photo: U.S. Army

A soldier was killed, and another injured, after a Humvee roll-over on Friday in Alaska's Yukon Training Area, the Army announced on Monday.

Read More Show Less
Staff Sgt. Daniel Christopher Evans was arrested on Jan. 29, 2018. (Photo courtesy of Wilmington Police Department, North Carolina.)

A Marine Raider convicted in a North Carolina court of misdemeanor assault for punching his girlfriend won't spend any time in jail unless he violates the terms of his probation, a court official told Task & Purpose.

On Monday, Staff Sgt. Daniel Christopher Evans received a suspended sentence of 60 days in jail, said Samantha Dooies, an assistant to the New Hanover County District Attorney.

Evans must complete 18 months of unsupervised probation, pay $8,000 in restitution, complete a domestic violence offenders program, and he cannot have any contact with his former girlfriend, Dooies told Task & Purpose. The special operations Marine is also only allowed to have access to firearms though the military while on base or deployed.

Read More Show Less
Photo: Facebook

A former Army infantryman was killed on Monday after he opened fire outside a Dallas, Texas federal building.

Read More Show Less