SAN DIEGO, (NNS) – San Diego Waterfront leaders met with Naval Postgraduate researchers on Friday, Oct. 13, to discuss the impact of sleep on crew readiness. This is the first in a series of discussions which accompany the implementation of circadian rhythm (CR) watchbills and shipboard routines directed by Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, commander, Naval Surface Forces (CNSF).
More than 50 local commanding officers (CO), executive officers (XO) and command master chiefs (CMC) showed up to listen and ask questions about the Surface Navy’s new policy, with a focus on implementation of the CR watchbills prior to the end of calendar year 2017.
“We’re here to talk about maximizing our Sailors’ effectiveness,” Capt. Brendan McLane, chief of staff, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, told the audience.
Circadian rhythm is a naturally occurring 24 hour rhythm which drives human processes, even down at the cellular level. Sailors on a CR routine would work, eat, and sleep at approximately the same time each day.
Professor Nita Lewis Shattuck, Ph.D., of the Naval Postgraduate School, has been working with the Navy and Marine Corps for more than 14 years now, tracking physical, mental and behavioral changes of Sailors following a CR watch schedule vs. Sailors on the typical “five and dime” watch rotation (five hours on, ten hours off), in which their watch times are different every day.
“The Navy has been on a five and dime for so long that the idea of circadian rhythm isn’t appealing to most Sailors,” Shattuck said. “People see the ten hours off (on a five and dime) and think it’s better. But the sleep pattern is not as good. The body likes to sleep at the same time every day, and the five and dime is a three day rotating pattern of sleep.”
According to researchers Michael H. Bonnet and Donna L. Arand, “there is strong evidence that sufficient shortening or disturbance of the sleep process compromises mood, performance and alertness, and can result in injury or death. In this light, the most common sense ‘do no wrong’ medical advice would be to avoid sleep deprivation.”
Shattuck pointed out that even though it has been difficult to convince Sailors that a 3/9 (three hours on, nine hours off) watchbill is better than a 5/10, studies show that Sailors on the 3/9 schedule worked 30% faster and 40-50% more accurately than those on the five and dime.
“Better sleep is linked to improved memory, creativity, productivity, concentration, happiness, optimism and frustration tolerance,” Shattuck said.
“Warfighting and professional, safe operations at sea continue to be my top priorities,” Rowden wrote in his guidance to the Surface Force September 17, which directed the implementation of CR watchbill and shipboard routines. “This order is consistent with those priorities.”
“Circadian rhythm watchbills and shipboard routines will help produce well rested Sailors who are better warfighters, shipboard operators, and engineers.” Rowden’s guidance went on to say. “I expect all of you to continue to maintain our high standard of warfighting, training, and readiness throughout this transition.”
The plan is to implement circadian rhythm into watchbills and shipboard routines throughout the Surface Navy, with the intention of being better prepared to support operational commitments. Naval Surface Force ships have been directed to implement circadian rhythm by December 20, 2017.
“We’ve been talking about circadian rhythm for several years now,” said McLane, “and we’ve gotten to a point now where we’re ready to make it mandatory.”
CNSF direction to the force provides for some exceptions to full CR implementation. Littoral combat ships (LCS), mine countermeasure ships (MCM), and patrol coastal ships (PC), which operate with smaller crews, have been directed to implement CR principles and best practices if they cannot reasonably implement CR watchbills. Along the same lines, the Type Commander direction to Commanding Officers to implement this new policy gives them latitude commensurate with their current responsibilities and authorities.
Friday’s meeting was the first of many waterfront engagements happening throughout the next few months. Representatives from CNSF and the Naval Postgraduate School will travel to Yokosuka and Sasebo, Japan, as well as Norfolk, Virginia and Newport, Rhode Island.
Shattuck’s team is continuing to research circadian rhythm and the effects of sleep depravation on Sailors. The results of CR in shipboard life is promising, and with the new policy taking effect, ships across the fleet will be putting it into action by implementing CR into their watchbills and daily routines.
For additional information about the efforts CNSF to improve the readiness of the Surface Force, click here: http://www.public.navy.mil/surfor/Pages/fleetsupportimprovement.aspx