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Recovery of Cognitive Performance Following Multi-Stressor Military Training

journal contribution
posted on 01.01.2022, 00:00 authored by Jamie TaitJamie Tait, Brad AisbettBrad Aisbett, Sean Corrigan, J R Drain, Luana MainLuana Main
Objective This project aimed to assess the impact of an 8-day military training exercise on cognitive performance, and track its recovery in periods of reduced training load and partially restored sleep. Background Military personnel often work in challenging multi-stressor environments, where sleep loss is inevitable. Sleep loss can impair multiple cognitive domains, which can have disastrous consequences in military contexts. Method A total of 57 male and female soldiers undergoing the Australian Army combat engineer Initial Employment Training course were recruited and tracked over a 16-day study period which included an 8-day field-based military training exercise. Cognitive performance was assessed via a computerised battery at seven time points across four sequential study periods; 1) baseline (PRE), 2) military field training exercise which included total sleep deprivation (EX-FIELD), 3) training exercise at simulated base with restricted sleep opportunities (EX-BASE), and 4) a 3-day recovery period (REC). Subjective load, fatigue, and sleep were evaluated continuously via questionnaire and actigraphy. Results Psychomotor speed, reaction time, visual tracking and vigilance were impaired following the EX-FIELD period ( p < 0.05). The majority of affected measures recovered 2 days following EX-FIELD, being no different in EX-BASE compared to PRE. Conclusion The sensitivity of the cognitive tests to sleep restriction, and recovery, indicates they can help assess operational readiness in military personnel. Future studies should explore other indicators of, and strategies to preserve, operational readiness in military personnel. Application This study highlights the impact of work-induced fatigue on cognitive performance, and would interest authorities seeking to preserve operational readiness.

History

Journal

Human Factors

Article number

ARTN 00187208221086686

Pagination

1 - 15

Publisher

SAGE

Location

London, Eng.

ISSN

0018-7208

eISSN

1547-8181

Language

English

Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal