How Service Members Can Sleep Better During a Change of Station

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How Service Members Can Sleep Better During a Permanent Change of Station Move

military moving day partners hug surrounded by cardboard boxes

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), active duty service members are overwhelmingly faced with short sleep cycles. Nearly one-fourth of them will also suffer insomnia. 

While military culture and sleep deprivation do go hand in hand, there could be other reasons for lack of sleep among service members. One is a Permanent Change of Station or PCS move, which comes with a few sleep challenges of its own. Here are some common ones associated with a PCS move, along with some ways for our men and women in uniform to deal with them.

Time Zones Change

A PCS move can take you anywhere in the world. As such, you might find that you are suddenly hours (or even a full day) off of your regular schedule.

If possible, try to adjust to your new time zone before you arrive. Begin at least a week out by going to bed an hour or so earlier or later, depending on your time zone. In this way, you will gradually adjust to your new time zone, so it isn't as much of a shock.

Adjusting your sleep schedule might not be possible if you usually work unusual hours or have formations to attend. But you are allowed ten days of Permissive TDY (temporary duty) in between PCS moves, which would be a great time to start.

Family Gets Left Behind

Families don't always accompany their service members right away. Maybe yours is staying back so the kids can finish school or your spouse can take care of other business. For some, the loneliness they experience leaves them tossing and turning at night.

Having familiar objects will make you feel more at ease in your new location. Many service members have particular possessions they have taken with them to each duty station and find that having these things with them helps them settle in. Maybe you have a favorite coffee cup, wall hanging, or rug that you always associate with a warm, cozy feeling. If so, make sure to bring those items with you.

Children of deployed parents often create a countdown calendar showing the number of days until mom or dad returns. You could do something like this yourself, but instead of counting the time until your deployment ends, mark the number of days until you are reunited with your family.

Drinking is Tempting

Without their families around, many will turn to alcohol. Aside from feeling alone, you may have been invited for drinks by other service members whom you are trying to get to know. Alcohol and military service seems to go hand in hand. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that the military has the most substantial rate of drinking among any profession in America.

It may be tempting to drink, but doing so can wreak havoc on your sleep quality. Studies show that consuming alcohol reduces the amount of REM sleep, and might also cause you to awaken more often. Instead of having a few beers, ask your comrades to meet you at the gym instead. You'll both score better on your next physical fitness test, and all that extra activity will leave you tired and ready for sleep.

You're Still Waiting on Household Goods

Depending on where orders take you, it could be several weeks or even months before your household goods arrive. This means that rather than sleeping in your comfortable bed, you are resigned to using an air mattress or cot instead.

In cases like this, the right pillows and bedding can make all the difference. Before PCSing, visit our website to view our selection of luxury sheet sets, comforters, pillows, toppers, and more. Carry these items to your next duty station so you will already be prepared. If you've now arrived, it's not too late to order as we ship anywhere with an APO or FPO address.

You Don't Have Permanent Housing Yet

Finding a home at your next duty station isn't always easy. If you have not yet secured permanent housing, you may be staying in a hotel or bachelor's quarters temporarily. Single soldiers might even be forced to remain in the barracks.

Being in unfamiliar surroundings can make it more difficult to sleep, mainly if they are very noisy. Even so, there are a few things you can do to create the right sleep environment, including:

  • Using a sleep mask to block out light sources. This is often a problem in the barracks where other people are continually coming and going at all hours. You might also find it necessary to sleep during the day if you are in the process of adjusting to a new time zone.
  • Wearing earplugs. Barracks and bachelor's quarters are often very noisy, as are certain extended-stay hotels. Earplugs (even those you get from your unit's armorer) can help block out excessive noise so you can settle in better.
  • Avoiding caffeine. It's tempting to rely on coffee or energy drinks to give you that extra boost. However, doing so does come with a price, which is usually in the way of interrupted sleep patterns.
  • Taking a natural supplement to help you fall asleep. Melatonin and chamomile can help you feel drowsy, as can placing a few drops of lavender essential oil on your wrists or pillow.
  • Limiting screen time. Turn off electronics at least one hour before retiring, and never watch television or play games on your tablet while in bed.
  • Maintaining the same bedtime routine. This will help you mentally establish your new duty station as "home," while also signaling to your body that it is time to fall asleep.

Get Great Sleep Wherever You Are

At Nest Bedding, we want you to have a good night's rest regardless of where your travels take you. Use these tips to help you transition, then contact us once you have settled. We'll help you find the right mattresses and bedding to ensure quality sleep that will leave you well fit for duty.

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