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Caffeine consumption and sleep in a submarine environment: An observational study.

  • Chabal, Sarah1, 2, 3
  • Folstein, Jonathan R1, 2
  • Chinoy, Evan D2, 3
  • Markwald, Rachel R3
  • Lieberman, Harris R4
  • 1 Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory, Groton, Connecticut, USA.
  • 2 Leidos, Inc., Reston, Virginia, USA.
  • 3 Sleep, Tactical Efficiency, and Endurance Laboratory, Warfighter Performance Department, Naval Health Research Center, San Diego, California, USA.
  • 4 US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, Natick, Massachusetts, USA.
Published Article
Journal of Sleep Research
Wiley (Blackwell Publishing)
Publication Date
Oct 01, 2023
DOI: 10.1111/jsr.13901
PMID: 37020175


Submariners face many environmental and operational challenges to maintaining good sleep, including suboptimal lighting, shift work, and frequent interruptions. Anecdotally, many Sailors consume caffeine to alleviate the effects of poor sleep on alertness, mood, and performance; however, caffeine itself may also degrade sleep quantity and/or quality. This study provides the first exploration of the potential relationship between caffeine use and sleep onboard submarines. Objective measures (wrist actigraphy, available from 45 participants), self-report sleep metrics, and self-reported caffeine consumption were collected from 58 US Navy Sailors before and during a routine submarine underway at sea lasting 30 days. Contrary to expectations, less caffeine was reportedly consumed at sea (232.8 ± 241.1 mg) than on land prior to the underway (M = 284.4 ± 251.7 mg; X2 (1) = 7.43, p = 0.006), positive rather than negative relationships were observed between caffeine consumption and sleep efficiency (F = 6.11, p = 0.02), and negative relationships were observed between caffeine consumption and wake after sleep onset (F = 9.36, p = 0.004) and sleep fragmentation (F = 24.73, p < 0.0001). However, in contrast, higher caffeine consumption was also negatively related to self-reported sleep duration while at sea (F = 4.73, p = 0.03). This observational study is the first to measure relationships between caffeine consumption and sleep quantity and/or quality in a submarine environment. We propose that the unique submarine environment and the unique caffeine consumption patterns of submariners should be considered in the development of potential countermeasures for sleepiness. Published 2023. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA. Journal of Sleep Research published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of European Sleep Research Society.

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