Objectives Combat deployments are characterized by high operational demands with limited opportunities for sleep leading to fatigue and degraded cognitive and operational performance. Caffeine in moderate doses is recognized as an effective intervention for physical and cognitive decrements associated with sleep loss. Methods This report is based on data collected by two separate, independently conducted surveys administered in Afghanistan in 2011-2012. It assessed caffeine use and sleep disruption among U.S. Army combat soldiers (J-MHAT 8; n = 518) and among deployed soldiers with different military assignments (USARIEM Deployment Survey; n = 260). Results Daily caffeine intake assessed in the J-MHAT 8 survey averaged 404 +/- 18 mg. In the USARIEM Deployment Survey, intake was 303 +/- 29 mg and was significantly higher among combat arms soldiers (483 +/- 100 mg) compared to combat service support personnel (235 +/- 23 mg). In both surveys, over 55% of total caffeine intake was from energy drinks. Additional sources of caffeine included coffee, tea, sodas, gum, candy, and over-the-counter medications. Higher caffeine intake was not associated with ability to fall asleep at night or wake-up in the morning (J-MHAT 8 survey). Higher caffeine consumption was associated with disrupted sleep from high operational tempo and nighttime duties of combat operations. Discussion Overall caffeine consumption and energy drink use in Afghanistan was greater than among non-deployed soldiers and civilians. Caffeine was frequently used as a countermeasure during night operations to offset adverse effects of sleep loss on physical and cognitive function, consistent with current Department of the Army recommendations.
Caffeine and energy drink use by combat arms soldiers in Afghanistan as a countermeasure for sleep loss and high operational demands
McLellan, T. M., Riviere, L. A., Williams, K. W., McGurk, D., & Lieberman, H. R. (2019). Caffeine and energy drink use by combat arms soldiers in Afghanistan as a countermeasure for sleep loss and high operational demands. Nutritional Neuroscience, 22(11), 768-777. https://doi.org/10.1080/1028415X.2018.1443996