Medics offer sleep hygiene and fatigue class

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Clay Murray
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Sleeping is a simple concept for people to grasp. Those who get the right amount feel rested, and those who lack rest are in dire need of it. Right?

Instructors from the aerospace and operational physiology flight say otherwise. They feel there is more to the equation, and once a month they explain that the mechanics of sleeping properly are simple but not well understood.

Maj. Nathan Maertens and Tech. Sgt. Brent Ochs, AOP flight commander and NCO in charge respectively, instruct a sleep class 11 a.m. - noon on the fourth Friday of every month at the Health and Wellness Center. Ideas and concepts taught in the sleep class are inspired by the same instructional materials taught to aircrew members regarding fatigue mitigation.

"Historically we've taught air crews about fatigue, countermeasures, sleep hygiene and things along those lines," Major Maertens said. "This course makes sure we can convey the information so when they go out on combat operations or have crazy work hours and long missions, they're trained to come home safely at the end. We asked ourselves if anyone else works long hours on the base - of course they do. We want to take that knowledge we've got and translate it to the rest of the wing."

Major Maertens has instructed another form of this sleeping course to First-Term Airmen's Center students, and he said the response from that class was favorable.

"We know this is something beneficial," he said. "At a previous assignment, I worked with the FTAC guys and taught a class. They loved it, and I've just wanted to do something like that here."

The sleep class revolves around four main themes to help Sabers understand and benefit as much as possible from sleeping, Major Maertens said.

"There are four big parts that we broke it down into," Major Maertens said. "The first is understanding human physiology. What does sleep do for me? Is there actually a physiological benefit? The second component is the circadian rhythm. For that, the big thing that impacts us here is jet lag. For example, when we switch from days to nights. Next we're going to talk about sleep hygiene, so when I want to sleep I can actually sleep and sleep well. And lastly, I'm tired so how do I keep myself awake, what options do I have to keep myself going if need be?"

"We want to provide better ideas on how to get a better night's sleep," Sergeant Ochs said. "We're not here, though, for sleeping disorders or to cure them."

Rather than just lecture anxious to-be sleepers, after the instructors cover all of the relevant material, they open up the class to questions. They answer all they can; and if answers are unknown, the instructors will track them down and circulate them to the students.

"People are going to realize sleep is not a nuisance and that there actually is value to it," Major Maertens said. "We all talk about doing really well on a test - should I stay up and cram a little bit longer or should I get that good night's sleep? There have been studies showing there is really something to getting that good night's sleep. That's really what we want to do - throw out the fact that sleep is a benefit, it's not just one of those things I have to do."