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New federal report finds military service members lack required sleep, leading to safety concerns

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- The Department of Defense (DoD) requires military service members to get at least seven hours of sleep per night. However, a new study found military personnel get far less than that.

“We found that to be a longstanding and widespread and pretty significant problem,” said Diana Maurer with the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report Tuesday that found the lack of sleep among active duty military personnel has led to millions of dollars in damage and even service member deaths.

“You're talking about people who are flying aircraft and helicopters and driving multi-ton vehicles or keeping watch on missile silos and things,” Maurer said. “You want those folks to be alert and engaged.”

For the last ten years, DoD surveys have found military service members sleep six or fewer hours each night, less than the federally recommended amount of seven hours by the DoD. The GAO did its own survey and military personnel responded saying their sleep deprivation has affected their work.

“Slow reaction time,” a remotely piloted aircraft pilot said in a survey about sleep deprivation. “Almost collided with another aircraft due to mental fatigue.”

The report listed a couple of main reasons service members aren’t getting enough sleep. Through the surveys and case studies on Navy ships, the GAO said military crews are overworked or don’t have enough people to complete their assigned responsibilities each day.

“There just aren't enough sailors aboard ships to do everything that needs to be done,” Maurer said of their Navy study. “As a result, they're cutting back on their sleep so they can meet their mission requirements.”

Maurer said military fatigue has been a problem for years. It’s why the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services ordered the GAO to look into what needs to be done to improve sleep among military service members.

The GAO said the DoD already has sleep recommendations in place, however, there is no one to make sure this policy is being implemented. The department recommended each military branch assign someone to oversee sleep among military service members.

The GAO also said there have been a lot of independent sleep studies throughout the military, however, there has been a lack of coordination on the findings from those studies. The department recommended more collaboration and communication about the impact of sleep on service members.

KRDO13 Investigates reached out to the military installations in Colorado Springs about this report. We are still waiting to hear back from the Peterson Space Force Base and Fort Carson. The Air Force Academy provided this statement about its sleep protocols for cadets, which they said is different from active duty military.

“Sleep is incredibly important to the success of United States Air Force Academy Cadets. During the academic year, classes end at 3:50 p.m. weekdays, however, most cadets are busy with homework, clubs, and athletics after class. While cadets are able to go to sleep earlier, lights out is mandated at midnight across the Cadet Area; breakfast is available starting at 6:25 a.m. During basic cadet training for new cadets during the summer ahead of their freshman year, lights out is at 9 p.m. and wake up is at 5 a.m.”

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Quinn Ritzdorf

Quinn is a reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about him here.


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