Home » News & Analysis » Navy Seeks Better Sleep For Crews With New Rest Guidelines, Special Glasses


Navy Seeks Better Sleep For Crews With New Rest Guidelines, Special Glasses

Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Fredericksen Coulter stands the optical sight systems watch in the combat information center aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Oscar Austin (DDG-79). US Navy photo.

The Navy established new rest guidelines for surface ship crews and is exploring whether specially tinted eyewear can help sailors fall asleep faster during scheduled downtime, after a recent deep-dive into surface force readiness showed that crews were overworked and under-rested.

Navy leadership acknowledged over the summer that poorly rested crews on deployment saw degraded performance due to insufficient sleep. After the Comprehensive Review of Recent Surface Force Incidents also noted the link between work performance and sleep, the Navy has sought to take measures to help sailors get more and better rest.

One tactic is to address sailors’s ability to fall asleep after working shifts at computer screens or in artificial lighting. Blue light – what emanates from screens or artificial lighting – blocks the brain’s production of melatonin, the chemical created by the brain to help people fall asleep, according to Navy researchers.

Based on initial testing, Navy researchers think wearing specially tinted glasses for an hour or two before bedtime can make falling asleep easier.

Using currently available materials, the Naval Ophthalmic Support and Training Activity, based at Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, crafted a tint for safety lenses that blocks about 70 percent of blue light, according to a Military Health System news release.

Testing the new lenses comes as the Navy is focusing on sleep, and specifically circadian rhythms. Following this year’s two fatal guided-missile destroyer collisions, Navy investigators found both incidents were caused in part by the prevalence of over-worked and under-rested sailors in the fleet.

“Sleep deprivation has been a significant and well-documented issue for service members,” Cmdr. Marc Herwitz, the chief ancillary informatics officer for the Navy’s Bureau of Medicine, said in the news release.
“It has been especially problematic for those on changing shift work schedules and those who work continuously under artificial lighting.”

The operational navy is seeking to address sleep deprivation through a new sailor rest and workday guideline, which requires commanding officers to incorporate circadian rhythm principles into their watchbills and shipboard routines.

Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, commander of Naval Surface Forces, released a statement explaining that the Comprehensive Fatigue and Endurance Management Policy fulfills one of the recommendations provided by the comprehensive review.

The guidance calls for sailors to get a minimum of seven hours of sleep in a 24-hour day – either seven uninterrupted hours, or five uninterrupted hours with a follow-on two-hour uninterrupted nap. Also, according to the guidance, a sailor’s workday should not exceed either 12 hours in a 24-hour period or eight hours of continuous work, except when required by operational tasks.

Rowden directed cruisers, destroyers and amphibious warships to implement circadian rhythm watchbills and shipboard routines by Dec. 20. Smaller platforms, such as Littoral Combat Ships, Mine Countermeasure Ships and Patrol Coastal Ships have until Mar. 31 to implement the policy.

“The intent of the policy is to provide specific direction to achieve optimal crew endurance, performance, and safety,” Rowden said in his statement.

Better-rested sailors are more productive and more resilient to mental and physical stresses, Rowden’s statement said. Commanding officers operating with sailors who are not rested are essentially conducting operations with impaired sailors.

Military Health System officials are working on tinting for lenses that can be worn an hour or two before bedtime, blocking the light that blocks the brain’s production of melatonin, the chemical that helps people sleep. (Military Health System photo)

Navy sleep researchers think the specially tinted lenses can help implement this guidance, which includes charging leaders with training sailors to take advantage of their protected sleep periods. Navy researchers say anecdotal evidence suggests the lenses are a relatively inexpensive and effective way to help bring on the body’s natural urge to sleep as a work-day winds down.

“We just completed a preliminary study with the use of these blue-light-blocking lenses in a group of active duty military members deployed in military facilities,” Nita Shattuck, a fatigue and sleep expert at the Naval Postgraduate School, said in the news release.
“We’re still evaluating all the data and creating control measures to test, but the results are very promising so far.”

More study is required before the military would consider widespread distribution of the specially tinted lenses. But according to Shattuck’s preliminary research, people who wore the glasses for two hours before going to bed fell asleep about 30 percent faster than those who didn’t use them. If successful, Shattuck thinks the lenses could make a big difference in the amount and quality of sleep warfighters get, especially those who do shift work and have to sleep during hours that go against the body’s natural rhythms.

“They’re getting more sleep which improves their mood and makes them less likely to be drowsy when we need them to be alert, such as when they perform security duties. Nodding off is just not an option,” Shattuck said in the news release.

Depending on the results of Shattuck’s research, Herwitz said in the news release, “this eyeglass application has the potential to enhance the readiness, safety, and productivity of service members and improve their quality of life. We can help them sleep, wherever they might be.”

  • Paul Reed

    I read the article, and as a retired BTCM (22 years service), I would agree that lack of sleep can cause poor performance and will impact on a command’s ability to react to unplanned circumstances. With that said, I remember when the Navy was looking into ways to improve Boiler Technician Retention during Admiral Zumwalt’s tenure as CNO and afterwards until 1990. Even though many ideas were floated up the chain of command, it wasn’t solved until they did away with the BT Rating. True, MMs are tending to the boilers today, but if the program wants a true benchmark, do the study in a steam plant, not a gas turbine propulsion plant. When there is a causality in fireroom (machinery room) the lights have a chance of going out. True, there are other departments that could benefit by this study, but I remember my bunk in the USS Vulcan (AR-5) CPO berthing area, and right next to my rack was a light stand marked “Blue Light”, that was commissioned on 14 June 1941. Many off us old Hole Snipes will be following this implementation and results.

  • kye154

    Sure, the glasses will help….somewhat. But, a lot of the problems were caused when the Navy was looking for ways of doing things on the cheap, and came out with a study, from the Naval Post-graduate school back in 1997, called: “The Costs and Benefits of Reduced Manning of U.S. Naval Combatants”. That doctrine was followed right up to this day, and consequently, most ships do not have their full compliment of sailors aboard. A GAO Report on “Navy Optimal Manning Practices”, (reported by USNI as of May 18, 2017), that essentially says this:

    “The Navy’s process to determine manpower requirements—the number and skill
    mix of sailors needed for its ships—does not fully account for all ship workload.
    The Navy continues to use an outdated standard workweek that may overstate
    the amount of sailor time available for productive work. Although the Navy has
    updated some of its manpower factors, its instruction does not require
    reassessing factors to ensure they remain valid or require measuring workload
    while ships are in port. Current and analytically based manpower requirements
    are essential to ensuring that crews can maintain readiness and prevent
    overwork that can affect safety, morale, and retention. Until the Navy makes
    needed changes to its factors and instruction used in determining manpower
    requirements, its ships may not have the right number and skill mix of sailors to
    maintain readiness and prevent overworking its sailors”.

    Despite the recent collisions at sea, the Navy still doesn’t have its act together on this.

    • homey

      The only way Sailors will get 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep is if the ships are manned with a full complement not this cookie cutter optimal manning concept they still have in place…

      • jcrv

        Probably not even then. Been there, done that.

    • proudrino

      I agree with the concept of “optimal manning” because personnel costs need to be controlled. That being said, the first task is to determine the parameters about frequency of tasks, mission capability, and other factors that go into determining optimal manning.

      All too often, optimal manning has really been about cutting the size of crews for cost savings with an implicit understanding that doing so incurs operational risk. The problems with that approach came to bear to 2017. Optimal manning should be based on what is necessary to fight the ship with the ability to use all the available technological capabilities. In other words, crew size should depend on what the Navy expects from a fully engaged warship instead of basing manning on the fewest sailors necessary for routine peacetime steaming with significant port time for repairs and maintenance.

      • CHENG1087

        The two recent fatal collisions involved front-line destroyers with nominal crews of about 330 officers and sailors. Were FITZGERALD abspd MCCAIN in fact undermanned the nights of their collisions? Are you saying that the 330+/- official manning level of the ARLEIGH BURKE class is dangerously inadequate? Do we know the actual specific manning deficiencies (if any) that existed in those two ships on those two nights?

        • publius_maximus_III

          The USN report on both incidents has diagrams of those present on the bridge at the time of the collisions. I recall the Fitzgerald had several un-manned positions, but I think the McCain was pretty well staffed, missing only 1 or 2.

        • Secundius

          Both USS Fitzgerald and USS John McCain had “Roughly” the Same Crew Size of ~281 each (~33 Ofc’s, ~38 CPO’s and ~210 Rates)…

          • CHENG1087

            Those are the manning figures cited in various Wikipedia articles for DDG-51s, but I don’t believe they are accurate. The three current “flights” (versions) of the ARLEIGH BURKEs (Flights I, II, and IIA) have different manning schemes, and they all are 300 (officers, chiefs, and enlisted) or greater, I believe. But those figures are “nominal” manning numbers, and the big question is what were the actual manning situations on those two specific ships on the nights of the collisions. We know from the Navy’s investigation report that at least three of the officers and/or sailors on watch on the bridge of JOHN S. MCCAIN at the time of the collision were “on loan” from a CG. Was this to fill manning shortages on the DDG, or was it a pre-arranged at-sea training opportunity for the CG’s personnel.

          • Secundius

            Because of Manpower Shortages within the US Navy! Some US Navy Officials claim through Automation (i.e. Computer Assisted AI’s) that an “AB” can be Safely Manned by a Crew of ONLY ~157! I seriously doubt it…

          • CHENG1087

            I would love to know exactly who these “US Navy Officials” are (by name). It would be interesting to read a detailed resume of their personal history and experience as a crewman on a U. S. Navy warship.

          • Secundius

            Probably the SAME that Keep getting their Collective Fingers caught in the Defense Cookie Jar (i.e. Fat Leonard)…

          • Christopher Schmoe

            Until a combat situation and all the automation is damaged and personnel have to fight the ship. Automation is fine to a degree on a merchant vessel but on a warship, systems will become damaged and the crew will have to continue to fight. Without manning it will be hard to do that.

      • USNVO

        It also goes to scheduling and training. You can steam with a routine three section watch and get plenty of sleep (except maybe for the CO). Throw Helo ops in at random times and it gets tougher but is still possible. But, if you ask a ship to be up all day training, steam through the night, and then be ready to train again the next morning, someone will be without 7hrs of sleep that day and it is normally your senior people. Throw in all the usual equipment casualties, routine maintenance, and administrative matters and you are very likely rarely hitting your 7hr goal.

    • Curtis Conway

      Hear Hear!

      • Stephen

        On submarines we would go into shift work. Our days rotated & sleep was dictated by tempo. My surface days, early 70s, Junior personnel covered the night-shifts. So, the least experienced cadre of folks ran the ship in darkness. I hope that has changed…

      • Stephen

        Lord, I just remembered the push to unionize the military. Sorry, I had to repress a violent up-chuck. We signed a contract that pretty clearly described part of our Constitutional rights were parked & replaced by UCMJ & a Chain-of-Command. My ID card still says indefinite…

  • Western

    Look, a squirrel! Lack of sleep might be an issue, but there are thousands of single-handed sailors who manage to circumnavigate the globe without merchant ships running into them. Navy Personnel needs to change the rules on the current ticket-punching rotation of officers into command positions. Four destroyer captains in six years does not develop seasoned sailors, tacticians or leaders.

    • Voice_of_Reason

      I think you are correct, and yet the article is also correct. They don’t conflict.

  • Kenneth Millstein

    I new this was a problem back in 1967 and 19868 when I served on board two different destroyers. I never received the correct amount of sleep that I was used to as a civilian. I am not by any means a professional on sleep requirements but before I went on active duty I was use to sleeping at least eight hours each night which I had for the first eighteen years of my life. It was extremely difficult to adjust to the requirements of ship board life which only permitted me about four hours of consecutive sleep at a time when at sea.

    I can remember that one night when I was on mid-watch as a QM we were going through some very rough seas and I laid down on the deck in the chart room to catch few winks as I was exhausted. The OOD saw me on the deck and said it was OK just don’t let anyone else see you. The point of me telling of this little event was to emphasize just how little sleep we were permitted to have.

    I can also remember being told by one of my shipmates aboard the USS Mullinnix DD944 that my enlistment contract only provided me with two hours of sleep and one meal per day. If that was in fact true, it was at that time an extremely difficult adjustment for me to make coming from civilian life. One other thing, I went on active duty as a member the USNR which in those days had me going from a civilian to a member of the active duty force literally overnight. I had done my boot camp training a year earlier.

    I really hope the “New Navy” takes better care of their most valuable asset, the men & woman of the Navy.

    I am happy this issue is now being looked into and as the saying goes “better late than never”!

    • kye154

      Yes, and I remember how rough seas would sap your energy too, not to mention standing either section 3 watches, or port and starboard watches during those times. Rough seas were never considered in the work/rest cycles of the navy either. There’s lots of things, besides special glasses, that needs to be considered, to overcome the stresses at sea, and much of it has to do with navy organization of labor.

      • Kenneth Millstein

        I am happy to see that I am NOT alone regarding the “sleep work and rest ” issue. Happy New Year!

        • donjames911

          Perhaps you meant NOT “alone regarding the “sleep work and rest ” issue?

          • Kenneth Millstein

            If I understand your reply correctly, I hope I am NOT alone in my concern about this problem that has been part of sea faring culture since men and now woman have put to sea as members of the greatest Navy in the world the United States Navy!

            Thank you for the correction and Happy New Year.

          • donjames911

            I think you understood correctly. However, lack of sleep has been an issue since mankind first sailed the seas.

  • publius_maximus_III

    IMHO, circadian rhythm is more important than the cumulative amount of sleep per day. Some folks only need 4-5 hours of sleep regularly, others need MORE than 8 hours. There were studies on circadian rhythm of folks isolated inside caves years ago. They kept a regular sleep cycle despite being cut off from any clues as to day and night. There really is such a thing as the internal clock.

    I know onboard a ship there has to be some rotation, since nobody wants to be perpetually stuck on the midwatch. But the less disruption of sleep routines, the better.

    • kye154

      Agree with what you say, but circadian rhythm can also get disrupted when you pass through time zones in transit too. (Everyone knows about “jet-lag”). Anyone traveling long distances across the Atlantic or Pacific is affected by it, particularly if you are on a “great circle route” that takes you through time zones fairly rapidly for your circadian rhythms to adjust to.

      • publius_maximus_III

        Westbound travel is less bothersome for me than eastbound travel (losing a night). Travel from Europe to the USA, i.e. chasing the sun, only seems like an extra long day.

      • muzzleloader

        A few years back I traveled from Virginia to Hawaii. My wife and I were zombies by the time we landed in HON, and we went straight to bed after our hotel check in. We were up at 4:00 am for the first 3 days until we switched from EST mode. While on active duty I had flown across the pacific 6 times to Guam and the Philippines and never gave it a thought. I guess the older one gets the more you notice it.

      • donjames911

        Your comment is BS since ships do NOT pass thru multiple time zones in a single day.

        • kye154

          Yes you can! You apparently have never sailed in the high latitudes or along a great circle route to know this. But, I will pass you off as another person suffering from the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

        • Secundius

          Sure you can! It’s a “Trick Question”? If you’re ~1.0-kilometer South/North of the 89.99* Parallel of the North/South Pole, the Next Time Zone is either ~3.14-kilometers East or West of your position…

    • Stephen

      Sadly, senior personnel have the day-watches; juniors the night-watch. An adherence to a regular work-day at sea never made any sense. A trick some in the submarine fleet would pull; shift the clock 12hrs. Our crews were asleep when the seniors (their best operators) stood watch. More effective than you might think.

      • donjames911

        BULLSHIT!

        • Stephen

          I have to ask; did you serve?

          • donjames911

            Yes, qualified on Sea Leopard, SS-483. After nuke school, served as an RO on John Marshall and George Washington.

          • Stephen

            571, 726, 650, 615 & 730. No BS!

      • CHENG1087

        I can’t speak to Submarine watchstanding practices, but I have never seen a Surface ship watchbill that assigns “Senior Personnel” to day-watches, and “juniors” to night-watches. My experience is decades old, but standard for the era (1960s — 1980s): usually three sections, four-hour watches, with the 1600-2000 watch “dogged.” The two-hour dog watches every day ensured the watch was rotated equitably. “Seniority” of watchstanders had absolutely nothing to do with their assignment to watch, only their proven qualifications.

        • Stephen

          70s-90s and only spent a year in the Surface fleet. I was told that E-4 & below would be covering 00-08. My CIC Officers were O-1, O-2s. I was an E-4, My senior ET was an E-5. CO, XO & Ops would visit… My DO was a W-4, he constantly challenged JOs, teaching with that age-old method of intimidation. Successful, I might add.
          Submarine experience was a little different; Watch-teams reflected the spectrum of personnel. Senior Enlisted paired with JOs for parity. Never surprised to find my CO/XO at my elbow, day or night. Also my experience after Commissioning. Rank-structure still applied but, more elastic than the Surface community. Seemed more in line with the ‘Deming’ principles of management.

          • CHENG1087

            Hi Stephen, I think I understand you, but on a Tin Can, the majority of the officers on any watch will be O-1 or O-2. In virtually all cases, there are only three O-3 Surface Warfare Officers on board any destroyer, the three line department heads. (In fact, in my Destroyer School class back in 1973, more than ten percent of our Department Head graduates were Lieutenants, Junior Grade (O-2)). On two of my ships, we “impressed” our LAMPS Airedales into standing JOOD and CICWO, and even qualified two of them as OOD (U/W) by about 2/3 of the way through the deployment. They were excellent watchstanders — no one intuitively understands relative motion like an aviator! But to re-iterate, I have never seen a surface ship watchbill that purposely assigned juniors to night watches, and seniors to day watches. Were you on a Destroyer for your one year of surface experience, or perhaps a larger amphib or auxiliary — or even a carrier? Those “talent pools” are often very different from a Tin Can’s. Sharing the load — that’s the rationale behind the “dog watch.” Am I understanding you correctly?

          • Stephen

            I served on a DLG that was later re-designated a DDG. We had a big gun crew as we were the 1st ship equipped with Phalanx. Repurposed spaces aft for a 20mm suite that fed those monsters. XO, Ops & Eng were O4s, CO was an O5. The only place I ever saw a W-1; gun expert. One thing I remembered, his stare would burn a hole through steel, one angry dude. As an aside, both the CO & XO became Admirals.

          • CHENG1087

            Hi Stephen, you must have been on a FARRAGUT class DDG. You had about a hundred more men in your crew (and a few more officers) than my DE/FF experience. Our COs were all O-5, and the only O-4s on board were the XO and the DesRon Chief Staff Officer (CSO) when the Commodore was embarked (the CSO was a good guy, but of course he didn’t count!). Never saw a Warrant Officer on my Tin Cans, but there were a bunch of them on my amphibs.

          • Secundius

            I suspect he was referring to the DLG-10, USS King, later redesignated DDG-41, USS King. Which was the First Vessel to be Outfitted with a pre-Mk.15 “Vulcan-Phalanx” in 1973 as a Testing Platform. Other two were DD-752, Alfred A. Cunningham (i.e. Allen M. Sumner class) and DD-942, Bigelow (i.e. Forrest Sherman class) in 1975…

          • Stephen

            USS Coontz DLG-9, We destroyed a few targets at Bloodsworth Is. The hail of bullets was quite impressive. I’m pretty sure we were the 1st operational. I asked our Gunners how could this gun fit in a plane?

          • Secundius

            Who said anything about DLG-9″Coontz”? I said DLG-10, “King”…

          • Stephen

            Easy, cool your jets. I served on the Coontz; no disparagement toward the King. I thought they were incredibly good looking ships & more versatile with the 5″ gun.

          • Secundius

            No offense taken! I thought maybe you Commented on the Wrong Comment, I’ve done it myself a Couple of times. The F-104 was the First Fighter to use the M61 Vulcan in 1959/60, though the Gun itself was designed before 1950 and Borrowed the Firing Mechanism from the Nazi-Germany’s MG-213. I suspect the Gun had a Lot of Teething Problem to go Operational almost 10-years after it was designed, probably due to the Smaller Caliber Size. And Converting Metric Units to US Standards…

          • CHENG1087

            Correction — on one of our WeatPac deployments, our LAMPS Detachment O-in-C was an O-4. There were a few uncomfortable (for the LAMPS guy!) early episodes, but the “battle of the lineal numbers” worked its magic, and things settled down pretty well in the “inner sanctum” of the on-board O-4s!

    • donjames911

      Did you serve?

      • publius_maximus_III

        Do Sea Cadets count? No sir, as you can see by hovering over my icon, no sea legs just a lot of brass. But that’s the beauty of this thing we call the Internet, instant credentials and expertise in any field. In que puedo servirle?

        • donjames911

          Yep, you show a lot of brass…..

  • Voice_of_Reason

    It’s 2017 and it’s high time that the military gets scientific about human performance.

    yes, it’s true that with willpower an exhausted, hungry, and cold Soldier (or Sailor, or whatever) can persevere and continue…but their actual performance will suck. Their ability to do anything complex and requiring judgment and reaction-time is degraded. That’s just a physiological fact.

    • Brent Leatherman

      “but their actual performance will suck”

      — Agreed. I remember standing TAO watches in the Gulf where I had been w/o sleep long enough that I was hearing things that weren’t there. I recall thinking “they’re giving someone like me, in this condition, the firing keys?” Kind of scary memories, now.

      • Vlad the Impaler

        I recall falling asleep standing up, While my XO dozed in a similar position beside me…

        IMHO, these accidents had more to do with training rather than manning or personning, or crewing. What CO crosses a traffic separation scheme in restricted waters without setting the sea & anchor detail? >>Reverting<< to use of the Mo board?! Really!!??

        Unconscionable that these OODs didn't use eyeballs and a pelorus to avoid these collisions. Reliance upon electronics vs seaman's eye or SP phones for navigation is insane.

        "ALL STEERING STATIONS, CENTRAL CONTROL – BRIDGE. THE BRIDGE HAS LOST STEERING CONTROL. AFTER STEERING TAKE CONTROL, FOLLOW YOUR RUDDER ORDER INDICATOR."

        How expensive was that? TRAINING TRAINING TRAINING.

        Not bad after 30 years of NOT standing a bridge watch.

      • Vlad the Impaler

        go GATORS!

  • MLepay

    Age old problem, glad someone finally recognizes it (again). Minimum manning does not lend itself very well to having a ton of quality rest especially when you figure in the normal daily watches, maintenance & ops and then the additional casualty control training and whatever other training, etc. is needed.

  • @USS_Fallujah

    Although taking action to help sailors fall asleep faster is good in and of itself, I don’t think it addresses the real problem. Between assigned watches, mandatory personal training, crew training (fire & flooding for instance), not to mention additional work toward watch certifications it’s fairly normal for sailors to have less than 4 hours a day available to sleep, and not at all uncommon for sailors to be up 36 or more hours straight before finally getting rack time – and that’s without any real down/relaxation time. We need more men on our ships, period.

    • silencedogoodreturns

      We need a surface line community that understands people are people and a resource, not a machine to run into the ground. Funny how every other community seems to find time to sleep.

  • kye154

    More talk about sleep deprivations……Former petty officer in San Diego, Shawn Vandiver, said this:

    “Being on watch used to be the centerpiece of a sailor’s day. With smaller crews and a number of side duties, watch is now almost the downtime at the end of a day. I know it’s the worst-kept secret that the Seventh Fleet is tired and undermanned,”, So, why is the Navy failing miserably at acknowledging this? If the watch is considered the “down time” of the day, the crew is in all sense of the word, are resting or asleep on watch. Any wonder why we are having collisions at sea? The special glasses aren’t going to help here, The Navy needs to get up off its dead duff and reassess its workload and increase its manning.

    • donjames911

      “Being on watch” is a sailor’s duty, and that includes officers. It is only when you CAN’T perform your duty that it becomes an issue, and it becomes your duty officer’s responsibility, as well as that of senior officers, to resolve the issues. If you want to blame the Puzzle Palace’s (Pentagon REMF’s) so be it. But it ALWAYS falls to the CO, and XO under his direction, to maintain ships readiness. It is frequently the Skipper that suffers the wrath of the REMF’s, and right or wrong, that is historically the way fuckups are handled.

      • BillyP

        Please tell me if I am getting paranoid here, but do I detect a whiff of the ultimate “downtime at the end of a day” equating to sleeping while on watch? Surely not – yet a previous commentator shared a personal anecdote of “grabbing forty winks on the deck of the chartroom” and that the OOW said that was “OK, as long as nobody sees you”, or similar.
        So the question has to be asked, ‘Were ANY of the bridge crew on the FITZGERALD and MCCAIN asleep at the time of, or leading up to, the collisions? If so, how many and for how long?’

        • Secundius

          Back in 2016, Three Bridge Watchstanders were found Sound Asleep at their Posts. Merchant Marine Vessels are Heavily Automated and have Small Crew of ~35 or less. So “Mizzen Watch’s” of Only Three are Not Uncommon on Merchant Vessels…

          • BillyP

            What sanctions were applied to thee miscreants? I always thought that falling asleep while on watch, or on sentry duty, was a serious breach of discipline and the penalties could be harsh, sometimes extremely harsh.

          • Secundius

            The Senior Officer was demoted to Engine Room Duty and the other two to the “Scullery Crew” Duties…

          • BillyP

            Not exactly #1 Field Punishment (or worse), which I understood to be the fate in the Army.
            I’m not sure what would happen in the Merchant Navy, other than instant dismissal, of course.

          • Secundius

            When your in the Middle of the Ocean with ONLY a Crew of 35? What are the Options! That Plank or a Lifeboat adrift. I suspect their Serving Contracts were Terminated as soon as they Ported at their First Duty Port…

          • BillyP

            In general you are quite correct, although when I was Master on the Rotterdam~PG run I helicoptered a 3/O off as we passed Cape Town – he was SO scared of all that crude oil under him that he became paralysed with fear and couldn’t stand a watch.

  • jcrv

    “Also, according to the guidance, a sailor’s workday should not exceed either 12 hours in a 24-hour period or eight hours of continuous work, except when required by operational tasks.”

    Laughable. There’s too much work to do and too few people to do it, and there are always going to be operational tasks, count on it.

  • Gosh, what a surprise. Next thing you know, Navy will suspect that heat stress is an engineering issue. Oh wait, BUMED told ’em that in the 70s.

  • ADM64

    All the sleep in the world won’t make up for fundamental deficiencies in basic skills. The surface navy has forgotten basic seamanship, ship handling and navigation. In all instances, this was the result of a conscious decision to rely on certain types of technology, and seems likewise associated with decisions about what is and is not “traditional.” Until those faults are addressed, the issue of sleep deprivation will be moot.

    It’s worth noting that analogies with the submarine and aviation communities should be handled very carefully and with some suspicion. Aircraft fly highly defined sorties in discrete time periods. Submarines, once beyond the continental shelf are almost immune to navigational hazards, and once submerged to virtually any depth, immune to weather. Moreover, they operate independently and stealthily, and the nature of their operations allows them to break off engagements more readily than either their air or surface adversaries. Surface ship operations are by their nature continuous and demands on the crew during combat and in bad weather will be high. There is no inherent way around those facts, which are inherent in the nature of naval operations.

    If our ships are insufficiently manned to allow sleep within normal watch standing parameters during peacetime operations, that is something that can and should be corrected. Optimal manning, to say nothing of losses due to pregnancy, is clearly an absurd and non-historical concept that reflects a senior leadership with too much emphasis on commercial business practices and not enough knowledge of actual naval operations.

    Considerably better levels of currently much neglected physical fitness would help too. However, we should be aware that sustained combat operations against competent enemies will be like the Battle of Okinawa writ large, with 24-7 operations and attacks likely. The demands on the crews will be high and we do ourselves no favors if we assume that sustained rest periods will be possible. A better conditioned, more relentless enemy will simply wear us down. All of that is without considering the effects of weather, which can exhaust crews too.

    • CHENG1087

      You claim that “The surface navy has forgotten basic seamanship, ship handling, and navigation.” There are 65 ships of the ARLEIGH BURKE class presently in commission. I don’t know how many of them are operating at sea today, but these good ships are — as you read these words — transiting congested seaways, operating in and out of ports around the globe, in both inland and international waters, replenishing and rearming at sea, maneuvering in restricted channels and straits, and steaming in all the traditional situations Tin Cans have always operated in. If your “…forgotten…” charge is accurate, wouldn’t it be logical that these sorts of calamities would be happening on a daily or weekly basis? When the AMTRAC train derailed in Seattle, did you conclude that ALL train drivers have therefor “forgotten” how to drive their trains.

      • Secundius

        What Derailed the Train, was Trying to Negotiate a 30mph Curve at ~80mph. That’s what Derailed the Train. Simple Stupidity and the US Government trying to Save a Few Millions of Dollars. By NOT Installing a “Positive Train Control System”…

        • CHENG1087

          “Simple stupidity” is an all-too-human PERSONAL failing, be it the U. S. Navy or AMTRAC, or any other thing we flawed humans attempt.

        • Stephen

          The real shame is that the technology was installed & at the ready. Trying to minimize regulations? Following a lead from Washington? Let’s hope it was a local decision to try & set a record for speed & sell more tickets, generating profit. They needed to justify all of the efforts to bypass the slow sections which plagued that rail route. Just like the Titanic, go fast, set the record; what could possibly go wrong?

      • BillyP

        Yes … but … on the bridges of the FITZGERALD and MCCAIN it appears that either something extraordinary, almost supernatural, afflicted all these officers and crew that made them forget all their experience/training and rendered them incapable of making basic shiphandling/seamanship decisions – – OR they really are deficient in all those skills. And if all the bridge crew on two Arleigh Burke DDs were so deficient, what are we to conclude about the others? Maybe they were/are just lucky?

        • CHENG1087

          Lucky? Really? Pick a convenient time frame — how about “the past twelve months”? How many underway watches have been recorded in all the Deck Logs in all the ships of the U. S. Navy, around the world? How many Special Sea and Anchor Details? How many restricted maneuvering watches? How many strait transits? How many traffic separation scheme transits? How many underway replenishments (UNREPs)? How many formation steaming watches? I can’t even imagine what those numbers are, but they are real numbers, representing myriad opportunities to collide with other ships, or to run aground. I’m not ready to attribute all those non-collisions and non-groundings to blind, dumb luck. Are you?

          • BillyP

            Fair point … however, what my comment intended to provoke was an explanation why those two(2) bridge crews behaved in SUCH an incompetent manner. Also, reassurance that this case was not typical of the rest of the fleet.
            So far, we have bluster, but no explanation – I’m waiting, still.

          • CHENG1087

            Who is blustering? The Navy? What words would reassure you that “this case was not typical of the rest of the fleet”? If collisions and groundings were “typical of the rest of the fleet,” wouldn’t there be a never-ending, daily or weekly rash of U. S. Navy collisions and groundings? If there is future UCMJ action contemplated for these “two(2) bridge crews,” then you won’t hear an explanation until justice has been meted out, right? How much detailed explanation should we, John-Q-Public, expect from the Navy?

          • BillyP

            All well and good as far as it goes, but … can you really sustain an opinion that there are no other USN vessels with a bridge crews of the same low level of competence?
            I’m sure you don’t need me to remind you of the accounts of personnel sleeping on watch (one condoned by his senior officer, the others ‘punished’ by being transferred to other duties). Sleeping on watch! What better indicator of serious malaise do we need?

    • Stephen

      Harken, these are sage words. I’ve seen watchstanders go into a hypnotic state. Staring at a gage, compass, screen, even a window can take a person into a twilight fog. Balanced watch-teams look out for one another. I would relieve a Helmsman from time to time just to freshen. When I say left, I want left, not whoops…

  • Secundius

    Are “These” going to be worn like “Glacier Glasses” with Sets of “Winkers” on the Sides to Block Stray Light from entering the eyes. And at What Spectrum do “These” Lens Block and/or Induce Sleep. Most common form of Sleep Induction Light is “Blue” within the 460nm Spectrum. Anything “Higher” than 490nm can cause Damage to the “Photoreceptors” within the eye itself, doing more Harm than Good…

    • BillyP

      Maybe a spell actually ‘looking out’ (i.e. not screen focussed) might help sleep patterns. It might also help bridge crew spotting a looming box boat, or a lumbering tanker, before the collision drew their attention to their presence; nothing like getting a bulbous bow smashing through the innards to wake up those not paying attention!

      • Secundius

        What was the Last Blog Site you were on, where “Everyone” Spoke in “Perfect” “Understandable” English. Without the usage of “Leet” and “Emoji’s” within the Sentencing Structure!/? I’ve been in More than 500, and yet to Find ONE…

        • BillyP

          Sorry, I don’t understand. To what are you referring?

          • Secundius

            You have nothing better to do and/or add to the Blog, other than Criticize the Grammatical Errors of Others…

          • BillyP

            I am still at a loss to understand my error(s).Perhaps if you could provide an example or two that would help me?

          • Secundius

            You made “Exactly” ONE comment on the Fitzgerald and McCain, of which I Never Commented about. And yet YOU felt the Need for “Grammatical Correctness” was In Order! Those on this Website may not be the Best and/or Most “Articulating” in their Thoughts to the Written Word. But usually get their Points Across to those who Know of Them…

          • BillyP

            You’re right – I blundered by building on the considerable volume of comments on the FITZGERALD and MCCAIN incidents, contained elsewhere in USNI and Maritime Executive. I assumed, wrongly as it turned out, that this discussion (quite vigorous I am pleased to note) was more widely known in the Maritime Community.
            I still don’t see where my “… need for “Grammatical Correctness” … occurred.

  • Chesapeakeguy

    Why not bring back the proverbial ‘ration of rum’? That might help.

    • Secundius

      By “Captain’s Order Number 349” by then Captain Edward Vernon in 21 August 1740. “Grog”: ~2-ounces of Dark Rum, ~1/2-Lime Juice, ~1-teaspoon Brown Sugar and ~4-ounces of “HOT WATER”!/? Drink Up “Salty One”, be the Real Sponge Bob…

      • Chesapeakeguy

        I like that Secundius! LOL…

        • Secundius

          Add some “Gunpowder” to the Mix!/? If the Gunpowder Ignites on the Surface (i.e. Head), you’ve got a Good Alcohol Content…

          • BillyP

            As I understand it, the gunpowder was added to the raw spirit (or vice versa) and then the ignition test was applied. The ‘story’ that we Midshipmen were told was that this test was devised in the 18th (17th?) Century to guard against ‘sub-proof’ rum being supplied to RN vessels, which if it leaked and dampened the gunpowder stores it would reduce its effectiveness when used in the great guns.

          • Secundius

            “Thermolytic Combustion”! When Gunpowder is Mixed with Alcohol of 40% Proof (i.e. 20% Alcohol Content) make Contact. The two will Ignite. Sea Captain’s of the British Navy “Watered Down” the Rum to prevent the Alcohol from being a Fire Danger aboard Sailing Warships. FIRE Hazard was the Greatest THREAT aboard ANY British Navy Sailing Vessel…

          • BillyP

            Powder that didn’t go ‘Bang’ when fired was non too popular either!
            I’m just telling you what an RN GI (Gunnery Instructor) told us quivering Midshipmen in 1957.

          • Secundius

            There’s also Linseed Oil, Varnishes, Paint, Ducted Canvas (i.e. Sail Cloth) and Wood that were “Combustible” found on ALL Sailing Vessel of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries…

          • BillyP

            Very true, which contributed to the “Boy Stood On The Burning Deck” incident aboard the ‘Orient’ at Aboukir Bay. Nelson was buried in a portion of the main mast retrieved from her wreckage.

        • Stephen

          Ever visit a British ship? They loved it when I would exclaim, ‘God save the Queen’; glasses refilled. To my friends on the HMS Blue Rover, Hazar!

          • Secundius

            The closest thing to a “Tot” served by the US Navy in WWII was “NaBeer” or “Near Beer”, which was 0.5% (1 Proof) Alcohol Beer. Probably one reason that “Franklin Boy’s” were in High Demand aboard US Naval Vessels…

          • Chesapeakeguy

            I have, but never had the pleasure of imbibing on one.

  • silencedogoodreturns

    What? You mean a 12 Hour work day followed by a 4 Hour watch results in Johnny not being at optimum performance level? Who wudda guessed it?

    This isn’t about glasses. It’s about proper management and leadership.

  • Brent Leatherman

    A good idea, but I would bet that it will be roundly ignored by the fleet. I wouldn’t want to be the first CO to say “Sorry, we can’t do that due to forced sleep time.”

    • Vlad the Impaler

      Crew rest baby.

      • Secundius

        Is that “Anything” like the FRMA (Fatigue Rest Management Plan), when it Collides with the MPRP (Minimum “Paid” Rest Periods)?/! On the Surface it Looks Good, but when the two interact you’ve got Chaos…

  • ed2291

    So the answer is more administrative requirements which will result in even less sleep? The real answer is to have the Navy stop heaping ever additional requirements on a crew and get away from the sleep deprived culture for surface warfare.

  • Dalgast

    Well after 2 and a half hours waiting to see if a 22 year Navy Vets comment is worth to post on this oh so prestigious of a publication I guess it wasn’t. Hey there Mr. author, How much time you put at sea? Just more propaganda

  • Ed L

    Burke DDG manning from a 2012 naval technology article showed a crew of 300 people per ship. I remember in the 70’s and early 80’s that a 4 section rotation for bridge & CIC enlisted stations were normal. But in my last sea tour 87 to 90 bridge was in 4 section & CIC was in 3 sections. We had gone from red night lighting to blue lighting. Myself I prefer the red lighting. On a Gator like and LPD or LSD a Helm, lee helm, messenger, 3 lookouts, 2 QM’s, a bridge to CIC talker, aft steering and a BMOW. Plus 2 to 3 signalmen. Now we were not even counting CIC and Radio which was at least another 12 to 14 enlisted watchstanders. That’s 28 or an even 30 times 4. So a 120 topside watch standers. The snipes, black gang whatever you want to call them Another 100 or more people. Daily maintenance, galley etc another 100. That’s 320 enlisted. Still the longest I remember going without a rope yarn Sunday was 3 weeks The longest time underway was approximately 140 days in the PG. currently from what I read a crew 250 on a Burke DDG seems pretty lean to me in my opinion

  • Paul Atkins

    sleep what was that, shoot sleep is like gold in the military, you hardly get any. That was the way it was when I was in the Navy.

    • Secundius

      Never had the Problem of “Sleeping”, in Other than Normal Sleep! I could just “Will Sleep” and be a sleep within 5-minutes. I was a W-01 in the Army as a Attack Helicopter/Ordnance Officer. As a Joke, some Pals of Mine put be in the “Greens” between two Intersecting Runways in the Middle of the Day. And I Slept though ALL the Air Traffic of a Duty Day without even Steering from the Sleep. Base Doctor would Check from Time-to-Time to see whether I was Faking Sleep. He kept reporting back Normal REM Sleep. Daylight and Noise seem to be my Comfort Zone for a Restful Sleep. Pissed-Off a lot of People who Placed Bets on the Prank…

  • MarlineSpikeMate

    Other Navies around the world and the professional maritime fleet observe this strange self induced problem in bewilderment.

    • Secundius

      Romania was the First European Country to Introduce a “No-Go” Drug to it’s Military in 1870. Called “Cocaethlyene” a Cocaine/Alcohol Mixture, known as “Bolundarita” or “That which makes you insane” by those that used it. Now used as a Treatment for ADHD…

      • MarlineSpikeMate

        And now the Royal Navy, La Royale (French Navy), Armada Española, and the Marina Militare have solved these sleep problems and operate efficiently and are well trained. O how times have changed.

        • Secundius

          The United States were “Slow Learners” to the Drug Dosing Game. And “Didn’t” start Issuing “Benzedrine” until 1934…

          • MarlineSpikeMate

            Such a perfect example.
            Here is a sample.
            Slow to develope their own bad ideas, even when someone else has gone through all the trouble.
            Even slower to acknowledge solutions, which might lie outside their own bubble.

  • eddie046

    Magic glasses! LOL I think we are as a culture just getting weak and soft that’s all.

  • J K Glaspy

    To get to sleep on demand, forget the eyeglass application, you need two small pieces of foam, called ‘earplugs’ which you place deeply in the ear canal and moments later you will be asleep until you are woken. You learn something new everyday don’t you? From “Driver’s Safety” author James K Glaspy.

  • Charles R Jones

    It looks like this subject has struck a nerve, as everyone has a story. Mine is from 1978, as Ops Officer (and primary TAO) on a nuclear powered missile cruiser (CO was AW and AE), during TRAINING operations in WestPac. We were doing the two-carrier battle group wargames (Blue vs. Orange Forces) with real assets for the standard two weeks of uninterrupted, actual underway TRAINING. We had to “make up the war, fight the war, and report on what we did” everyday for the two weeks. For me, this required 23 hours per day for two weeks. I learned that, for me, as we got near the end of the two weeks, I would have stomach cramps as I stood my TAO watch in CIC. I did not need any help getting to sleep for my one-hour, and at the end of exercise, the Admiral (AB) on our Blue Force carrier sent out a message saying it was the best exercise he had ever experienced. As the Cold War continued, I often said I would rather go to war with the USSR than go through US carrier battle group training at sea. In short, sleep issues are not the problem if training is deficient.

  • Crazy, just enforce taps and lights out. I am sure our current breed of sailors I am sure are up huddled over their tablets and playing games and videos and not getting enough sleep. Taps, taps, lights out, silence about the deck, now taps…That will solve the problem. And I agree with kye154 – manning is a problem. A ship the size of a cruiser with less than two hundred sailors (Zummies) and LCS – minimum manning – enforce and man ships for a at least 4×8 watch sanders and give the watch standers some sort of rotation. Just glaring at a multicolored screen for four hours would make anyone tired. MMCS(SW)(SS) USN Ret.

  • DemsRshit

    Good news for the Air Dept on all the CVN’s

  • John Locke

    Charlie don’t sleep!

    Funny how some people think you can operate at sea like it’s a 9-5 job.