I recently have been interested in sleep and how to best optimize the time I am sleeping. In my curiosity, I found an article titled, “Behavioral Fitness and Resilience” by Sean Robson and Nicholas Salcedo. It’s an interesting read, centered around the Air Force and their behaviors that either help contribute to their health or are harmful to their health. I was interested in the article for its facts on sleep and health hygiene.
One concept I found fascinating was TFF. Total Force Fitness, a concept defined by Admiral Michael Mullen: “A total force that has achieved total fitness is healthy, ready, and resilient; capable of meeting challenges and surviving threats.” The eight domains of TFF: medical, nutritional, environmental, physical, social, spiritual, behavioral, and psychological. This framework expands on the traditional conceptualization of resilience by looking beyond the psychological realm to also emphasize the mind-body connection and the interdependence of each of the eight domains.
The study talks a lot about US Military Personnel and how they are at a high risk for many deleterious outcomes. The idea is that there are certain routines and habits that can help the military become more resilient and have stronger behavioral fitness. Behavioral fitness refers to the relationship between one’s behaviors and their positive or negative health outcomes. The concept emphasizes individual responsibility to engage in behaviors and activities that facilitate the maintenance of health or prevent disease or dysfunction. Resilience refers to the ability to withstand, recover from, and grow in the face of stressors. Fitness, which is related, is meant as a “state of adaptation in balance with the conditions at hand.” The study focuses on sleep, smoking, and drug and alcohol abuse and shows that failure to properly manage one’s habits in regards to these three domains can lead one to be more susceptible to the negative effects of stress.
In regards to sleep, here are some facts from the article. Sleep is absolutely necessary and decrements in sleep are strongly linked to a wide range of negative outcomes including reduced physical health outcomes and obesity, poor mental health, and decreased job-related performance. Sleep is particularly important in cognition and promotes brain plasticity, which supports learning and memory by forming new and lasting connections in the brain. Sleep loss can reduce cytokine production, which is a biological function that may lead to decreased immune system functioning. Excessive sleep loss can contribute to chronic health conditions, including coronary heart disease and diabetes. Getting too much sleep can be just as harmful as excessive sleep loss. Sleep promotes the consolidation and generalization of emotional experiences, whereas sleep loss may increase reactivity and irritability to events. Sleep loss can result in slower reaction times and decrease hand-eye coordination and accuracy, mimicking being drunk.
Lastly, if you are as interested as I am in getting good sleep, here are some ways the article suggests do so. According to the National Sleep Foundation, individuals struggling with sleep will engage in a number of maladaptive strategies to restore normal sleep patterns. Two of these being: 1) staying in bed longer by either going to bed earlier or staying in bed later, and 2) staying in bed while awake. These maladaptive strategies may be mutually reinforcing, ultimately leading to conditioned arousal in bed rather than restful sleep. According to the International Classification of Sleep Disorders, inadequate sleep hygiene is affected by “various habits and activities of daily living that may promote a sleep difficulty.” These habits generally fall into two categories. The first category represents behaviors and habits that increase arousal such as drinking caffeine late in the day and staying out late at night. Studies regularly find that exercise is associated with better sleep. The second category are behaviors that disrupt the development of consistent sleep patterns. Examples include spending too much time in bed, going to bed at different times, getting up at different times, and taking long or multiple naps during the day. Alcohol in high doses has been excessively linked to sleep disturbances. The following are ways to increase sleep hygiene: 1) Go to bed at the same time each night, and rise at the same time each morning. 2) Sleep in a quiet, dark, and relaxing environment, which is neither too hot nor too cold. 3) Make your bed comfortable and use it only for sleeping and not for other activities, such as reading, watching TV, or listening to music. 4) Remove all TVs, computers, and other “gadgets” from the bedroom. 5) Avoid physical activity within a few hours of bedtime. 6) Avoid large meals before bedtime.