Second international School On Mind, Brain And Education

2007, May 22-26

Basic and Applied Topics
in Biological Rhythms and Learning

Directors: Antonio M. Battro and Kurt W. Fischer
Program officer: María Lourdes Majdalani

Abstract: Jeffrey Dyche
USAFA/DFBL (US Air Force Academy), USA

Comparison of sleep habits between US and French Air Force Academy cadets
The sleeping habits of modern college students are generally regarded as less than perfect; most receive far less than the 9+ hrs per night ideal. Frequent study sessions and an attempted social life can create an atmosphere in which sleep is a low priority. Based on previous research, US Air Force Academy (USAFA) Cadets also experience chronic partial sleep deprivation. Unfortunately for college students, whether military or civilian, without adequate sleep, performance on even simple tasks becomes challenging. However, this impact of partial sleep deprivation is not always easy to notice. These effects are insidious because subjective appraisal of personal performance during partial sleep deprivation can be1lie the reality that objective performance is quite poor (Van Dongen et al., 2003).
Several civilian studies have illustrated that sleep deprived adolescents, similar in age to Cadets at the USAFA, have lower cognitive functioning compared to the well-rested (e.g., Carskadon, 2002). This is of concern to military leaders because many military troops are very young and, in order for military operations to succeed, all involved members must be cognitively vigilant and alert.
In addition to sleep deprived American troops, we must contend with allies who may be similarly drowsy. With our military being further stretched, it is important to evaluate the sleep habits not only of our own military members but also the habits of our allies. In order for proper planning and execution, such “joint exercises” with an ally require a cursory understanding of the culture in which the other military members are drawn. Part of that understanding is an appreciation of different social norms involved in typical day-to-day activities, to include wake-rest norms. There is evidence that sleep times among adolescents in Europe do vary as a function of which country they are reared (Thorleifsdottir et al., 2002), and it is reasonable to assume that American habits may be different from European. In order to make recommendations regarding sleep-wake cycles for our military members working with foreign military, we must investigate the patterns of our allies to make a more informed, culturally sensitive policy.
Thus, this research investigates the sleep habits of both French Air Force Academy (FAFA) Cadets and USAFA Cadets. Standardized surveys as self-report measures and actigraphy technology will be used to assess total sleep time (TST). The actigraph measures wrist movement which is established to be well correlated to actual sleep times (e.g., Acebo et al., 2000). Ten FAFA cadets wore actigraphs for 1 wk. In addition to wearing the actigraph device, for the duration of the week participants recorded their sleep habits in a journal. The standardized Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) was collected (n = 100) along with an abbreviated Brown University Sleep Habits Survey (SHS) after being translated into French. Identical procedures and participant numbers were replicated at USAFA with the English version of the survey instruments. Results to be discussed.