Picture: Cyril Saulnier
Sleep deprivation in the forces is not uncommon, so determining the ideal amount of caffeine to consume for maximum efficiency could be key in reducing accidents.
Now the US Army and the US Department of Defense have developed software which could provide answers.
Based on studies researching the effects of sleep and caffeine consumption on reaction times, researchers at the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command’s Biotechnology High-Performance Computing Software Applications Institute (BHSAI) have developed a mathematical model which predicts performance based on an individual’s level of sleep and caffeine intake.
The 2B-Alert app is designed to offer the user the possibility of calculating when and how much caffeine to drink to optimise their productivity, based on their level of sleep.
Jaques Reifman, who works on the project, said they found that around 40% of US service personnel sleep less than five hours per night, despite the ideal seven hours per night to function at peak performance. He said:
"Each individual responds very differently to sleep deprivation and caffeine consumption."
The US Army is reported to be testing the algorithm on soldiers in training and plans to license the technology to the civilian market.
The researchers hope the military spin-off will ultimately benefit all shift workers, trucker drivers, nurses, doctors and others who need to keep going throughout the day and night.
In the meantime, a simplified, non-personalised version, 2B-Alert Web, which predicts the effects of sleep and caffeine schedules on alertness, is currently available to the general public.
The app is expected to be available in the Autumn of 2018.