The warriors known for waking up at the crack of dawn are now advised to get plenty of rest.
In a measure that may seem to contradict the motto “Army Strong,” the military branch’s latest exercise guidelines encourage recruits to practice aggressive napping, meditation and warm baths. The unorthodox activities are part of a revamp of the US Army’s physical-fitness training field manual, now called the “FM 7-22 Holistic Health and Fitness.”
“Soldiers can use short, infrequent naps to restore wakefulness and promote performance,” the booklet recommends, adding that they should “take longest nap possible” when “available sleep time is difficult to predict.”
In general, the Army manual suggests that soldiers get seven to eight hours of sleep a night, which soldiers can help facilitate by listening to soothing music or taking a warm bath before hitting their cots.
“The Army has always had an internal dynamic that real men don’t need sleep and can just push on, and it’s incredibly stupid,” former commander of US and coalition forces in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005 Lt. Gen. David Barno told the New York Times. “Combat is a thinking man’s business, and your brain doesn’t function without sleep.”
Barno took pains to “protect eight hours of sleep a night” while deployed in an effort to keep his guys clearheaded during battle.
Past research has shown that fatigued troops can experience impaired judgment, delayed reaction times and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to Sleep.org.
Sufficient slumber isn’t the only pursuit prescribed by the Army’s new guidelines, which were overhauled for the first time eight years. Meditation and success visualization exercises are also encouraged — along with the signature pullups and rucksack runs.
The manual even features a whole chapter on “spiritual readiness,” defined as the “ability to maintain beliefs, principles, and values needed to provide support in times of stress.” The methods themselves are part of the military’s holistic wellness campaign, which began years ago when elite Special Operations units would bring in trainers, dietitians and wellness coaches to aid in their exercises, the New York Times reports.
This health regimen might seem more befitting of day spa attendees than those fighting on the front lines. However, the self-help-esque tips aim to help mitigate injuries suffered during combat, which in turn, increases the military’s effectiveness while reducing the cost to taxpayers in terms of state disability fees.
This isn’t the first time the military has tried to introduce holistic health measures to their ranks. A 2019 study published in the journal Military Medicine recommended that soldiers adopt the keto diet — the trendy high-fat, low-carb plan — as a means to lose weight and improve their performance in battle.
Meanwhile, the Navy Seals are fighting for inclusivity by changing their creed statement to become gender-neutral and dropping terms such as “brotherhood.”