Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
Cumulative Sleepiness & Subjective Blindness to Sleepiness (#2 of 3)
June 27, 2022

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A Healthy Child Needs a Healthy Brain, A Healthy Brain Needs Healthy Sleep

If you have not already done so, please read Blog Posts 1 through 5 that describe how sleep is important and beneficial. I will post specific information for parents and children based on my book, “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.” Please do not be put off by my book’s length. This is a reference book. Read only the topic of interest to you.

Blog 85Cumulative Sleepiness & Subjective Blindness to Sleepiness (#2 of 3)

Cumulative Sleepiness & Subjective Blindness to Sleepiness

“Sleep Readiness” is the title of Chapter 11 of the United States of America Department of the Army field manual (FM 7-22) that prepares young men and women to become soldiers. It is the official document that describes how all young recruits will acquire necessary skills during the process that is sometimes referred to as basic training or “boot camp.” Updated in 2020, it is based on empirical data using traditional scientific methods. I have lightly edited, added emphasis, and condensed Chapter 11 (see Blog Posts 15).

Chapter 11: Sleep Readiness: From the United States of America Department of the Army field manual (FM 7-22)


Although some Soldiers [Children] may require a little more or a little less sleep, for the vast majority of Soldiers [Children] a steady diet of regular sleep is needed to sustain normal levels of brain function and health indefinitely. Most Soldiers [Children] who regularly obtain a little less sleep every 24 hours pay a price: they unwittingly [Subjective blindness to sleepiness] but steadily accrue a significant sleep debt, characterized by increasingly suboptimal alertness, reduced mental sharpness, and an impaired ability to recover from stress [Cumulative sleep deficit]. These Soldiers [Children] typically believe that they are fine and may perform most basic duties adequately. From an objective standpoint, their alertness and mental acuity is significantly (and invariably) impaired [Subjective blindness to sleepiness].

Even for those who regularly obtain the generally recommended number of hours of sleep per night, more sleep can result in even better alertness and mental acuity. In brain health and mental functioning, there is no such thing as too much sleep. Therefore, to maximize brain health and functioning in an operational environment [Home, School, Playground, etc.], Soldiers [Children] aim to maximize sleep as much as possible with the constraints of the operation [Specific family circumstances]. As sleep duration increases, so does the likelihood of mission success [School tests, athletic competitions, public performances, etc.].

Insufficient sleep degrades the brain’s function. The more sleep the brain gets, the better it functions. The effects of inadequate sleep on brain function and performance are well-documented.

  • Reduced ability to concentrate, impaired judgement, problem solving and decision making.
  • Increased irritability and more negative mood.
  • Reduced motivational level.
  • Increased reaction time and slower response time.
  • Reduced ability to effectively cope with stress.
  • Increase risk of physical injury.
  • Increased time to recover from injury.

Insufficient sleep negatively affects not only cognitive performance, but emotional and social functioning.  Adequate sleep promotes an optimistic outlook and social acuity, but failure to obtain adequate sleep on a regular basis makes a person less resilient to stress and stress-related disorders including depression. In short, the brain has a physiological need for sleep, and sleep promotes the ability to think and maintain mental toughness. And the more sleep, the better. Although obtaining ample and regular sleep generally results in the ability to sustain normal levels of alertness and performance during the daytime, obtaining even more sleep results in greater brain readiness-enhanced mental sharpness and resilience in the field.


When mission requirements [Specific family circumstances or events] do not allow for adequate sleep, the goal becomes twofold: to optimize alertness and performance during waking periods to the extent possible and to maximize the ability of Soldiers [Children] to take advantage of any opportunities for sleep that do occur. A factor that determines the extent to which alertness and performance are impacted by sleep loss is individual differences in sensitivity and resistance to the effects of sleep loss.           

No one can maintain alertness and performance indefinitely without sleep, but some individuals are more impacted by sleep loss than others. Individual differences are determined by both genetics and sleep history or habitual sleep.  Leaders [Parents] evaluate a Soldier’s [Child’s] performance since insufficient sleep impairs the ability to self-assess [Subjective blindness to sleepiness]. As a rule, sleep-deprived Soldiers [Children] will overestimate their own capabilities. The notion that one can adapt to sleep loss is a myth. Although Soldiers [Children] generally benefit from training as they fight [Learn], this does not hold true for sleep loss. Soldiers [Children] cannot be trained to perform better on less sleep. Although chronically sleep-restricted Soldiers [Children (or parents)] do become accustomed to a reduced level of alertness, which they think is normal [Subjective blindness to sleepiness], objective assessments to reveal deficits show that there is no evidence of habituation or adaptation to sleep loss.

Please see Blog Post 13 for more information. Subscribe to my blog for baby and child sleep training.

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