Sleeping while marching

My father has told me a couple times how, once in a (slave) labor camp under the Nazis, he was put on a forced march for “a week or so.” If you fell you were shot. So he was forced to learn how to “sleep” while marching.* Every time he has mentioned this he is amazed on how on earth anyone can sleep like that. He does remember jerking his head up, the way you do when you catch yourself nodding off.

Any ideas about how this was done?
*FWIW, I have no reason to doubt him on this. Like many survivors of the Holocaust, he speaks very rarely of events with the exception of one or two.

From what I understand, it happens more or less automatically if you’re deprived of laying-down sleep for long enough.


CMC fnord!

Back when I was working graveyard shift and being seriously sleep-deprived, I occasionally fell asleep after leaving work, on my way to the train station. Strangely, though, I could not sleep on the train.

Happens all the time in the Army and more than likely the Marines as well. Couldn’t tell ya how it’s done though.

The other night, I was lying in bed watching TV, as I always do right before I go to sleep for the night. For a brief few seconds, I found myself in a state where I was awake and watching TV and also asleep and dreaming at the same time. That’s the first time I can recall anything like that happening to me. It was a strange sensation! :confused:

yup, it happpened to me a couple of times on a long march. Kind of weird.

Also, one time after a hard night and an early rising, we were called outside for calisthenics. I was doing something where we were supposed to hold our arms up and wiggle our fingers. I was doing this, and the next thing I knew, I heard laughter. I awoke quickly to see everybody laughing at me, with my arms still held above my head. The sergeant leading the exercises was just looking at me with a disgusted expression.

I’ve never seen a person sleep while marching, but plenty of people sleep standing up in morning formation. I’m pretty sure I’ve done that too. How was this done? I dunno…just was.

In the ground bases armed forces, the Army and the Marine Corps in the US service and in all the foreign armies that I’m aware of, the recruit training is pretty vigorous, physical and demanding. The recruit never gets as much sleep as he might want and the cadre keeps it that way by working on a two or three shift system – the sergeant who wakes you up by banging on the trash can will not be with you all day. As a consequence when things get tedious, as on a long road march, it is all too easy for the brain to shut down. You just space out for a few seconds or a few minutes.

It is even easier in a dark, cool place like a lecture hall or a theater where you can sit down and hide from the circling NCOs.

My best days in training were days on kitchen duty – the mess sergeant would let you sleep under the tables between meals and if you got mess truck duty you could sleep in the back of the truck when you were not actually working.

People have mentioned the ‘sleeping while you march’ phenomenon among military recruits. Along those lines, but probably at the extreme end is “Hell Week” for hope-to-be Navy SEALs. That legendary test involves going six days straight days, under extreme physical and mental pressure, with no more than four hours sleep over the duration (that is, unless they’ve changed it since I went through ;)). So, not completely dissimilar to your father’s experience.

Just here to add that Heinlein mentions sleeping through parades, while marching, in Starship Troopers.

Did it during Basic and again during CAP (Common Army Phase).

it sucks, and sometimes it’s hard to tell reality from sleeping. Nothing sucks more than waking up - looking around then REALLY waking up and realizing you were actually asleep.