Military Culture

A definitive ranking of troops’ extreme napping positions

Sleep can be hard to come by in the service. One of the very first things you learn when you enlist is that you should take any and every napping opportunity possible, despite the location. As thousands of National Guard members filter through the halls of the U.S. Capitol, civilians are getting firsthand looks at just how easily soldiers can turn a concrete floor into a comfortable nest.

If dozing off in uncomfortable places and positions were an Olympic sport, service members take home gold every time. That’s why we decided to pull together a definitive ranking of some the best, worst, and downright ridiculous sleeping positions in recent military history, on scale from 1 to 10, in terms of insanity.

Spc. Alex Sundberg, Company A, Third Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, finds a way to take a nap in the trunk of a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle during Operation Swarmer March 18 in Iraq.
Spc. Alex Sundberg, Company A, Third Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, finds a way to take a nap in the trunk of a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle during Operation Swarmer March 18 in Iraq.

6.5/10. He looks seriously cozy with his rucksack for a pillow, sunglasses to block the light, and no weapon in sight. This specialist proves that even a dusty desert truck bed is still a bed. And even though are no stars in the sky, at least there’s one on the vehicle.

Soldiers of Chaos Company, 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, catch an early morning nap after an overnight simulated battle at the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site, June 8, 2015.
Soldiers of Chaos Company, 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, catch an early morning nap after an overnight simulated battle at the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site, June 8, 2015.

6/10. It’s always better to cuddle and huddle for warmth. This is yet another instance that proves truck beds are almost as good as real beds. Please note the various forms possible when sleeping in an upright position. We’d wager the soldier on the right is going to need a neck brace by the time he wakes up from his nap. Still, it’s not the most unconvential sleeping position we’ve seen.

Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division wait for an aircraft at Pope Army Air Airfield, to take them to a training rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, La., March 8. (Sgt. 1st Class Seth Laughter/Army)
Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division wait for an aircraft at Pope Army Air Airfield, to take them to a training rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, La., March 8. (Sgt. 1st Class Seth Laughter/Army)

7/10. These paratroopers’ nap line is almost as uniform as it would be if they were conscious and standing in formation. Note the classic near-fetal position they’ve all adopted on the floor and smart utilization of the shadow under the bench to block out the light. That’s some real Army ingenuity.

Army Lt. Col. David Woods, commander of 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, takes a nap, despite the torrential rain soaking him at his patrol base in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, June 23.
Army Lt. Col. David Woods, commander of 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, takes a nap, despite the torrential rain soaking him at his patrol base in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, June 23.

4/10. Soaking wet is no way to nap. We can’t imagine that this guy’s covering is doing much except preventing him from inhaling rainwater as he tries to get in a few zzzs. Still, props for trying. At least in the rain, no one can see you cry yourself to sleep.

A. U.S. Marine assigned to Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment (2/7) takes a nap in the Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) center on Forward Operating Base Now Zad, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Dec. 17, 2012. (Cpl. Alejandro Pena/Marine Corps)
A. U.S. Marine assigned to Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment (2/7) takes a nap in the Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) center on Forward Operating Base Now Zad, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Dec. 17, 2012. (Cpl. Alejandro Pena/Marine Corps)

9/10. This Marine is party up top and business down below. Though his torso is asleep, his feet remain plastered to the floor. He’s ready to spring to action at a moment’s notice. This sleeping position looks like a nightmare, but we hope he’s having sweet dreams.

Soldiers with Black Hawk Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, take a nap at Forward Operating Base Union after conducting raids in Mansour, Iraq, March 3.
Soldiers with Black Hawk Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, take a nap at Forward Operating Base Union after conducting raids in Mansour, Iraq, March 3.

7/10. Now this is interesting. He’s using his ruck as a foot stool and his kneepads as a pillow. Why? We’ll probably never know. It looks pretty terrible though.

U.S. Army paratroopers catch a nap before the sun rises, waiting to donate their toys in hopes of receiving a winning lottery ticket for the opportunity to earn partner nation jump wings at the 18th Annual Randy Oler Memorial Operation Toy Drop. (Timothy L. Hale/Army)
U.S. Army paratroopers catch a nap before the sun rises, waiting to donate their toys in hopes of receiving a winning lottery ticket for the opportunity to earn partner nation jump wings at the 18th Annual Randy Oler Memorial Operation Toy Drop. (Timothy L. Hale/Army)

8/10. These paratroopers have found some fairly cozy chairs to curl up in as they wait for morning. We gift them high marks for their proximity to Pringles, as well. There’s nothing like a tasty midnight snack before waking up at the crack of dawn to jump out of a plane.

A U.S. Army soldier assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, Fort Wainwright, Alaska, takes a much needed nap after participating in a training exercise in the cold and heavy rain Jan. 20, 2017. (Spc. Tracy McKithern/Army)
A U.S. Army soldier assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, Fort Wainwright, Alaska, takes a much needed nap after participating in a training exercise in the cold and heavy rain Jan. 20, 2017. (Spc. Tracy McKithern/Army)

8/10. Overall a solid sleeping position, this soldier is pressed up against a pile of gear for support. What’s perplexing, though, is the choice to sit on his right leg. We’d wager that when he wakes up, his leg will be fast asleep, and when he tries to stand, his knee is going radiate pain like static through your TV when the cable cuts out. Big yikes.

Warrant Officer Daniel Johnson takes a nap during a field training exercise during Warrant Officer Basic Course 1-19 on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., April 30, 2019. (Officer Kowshon Ye)
Warrant Officer Daniel Johnson takes a nap during a field training exercise during Warrant Officer Basic Course 1-19 on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., April 30, 2019. (Officer Kowshon Ye)

10/10. This sleep position is everything. Our Marine here has a rucksack pillow and rifle tucked between his knees with the barrel pointed directly at his face. And we can’t imagine those cold metal bleachers make for a comfy place to lie down. Ah well. Goodnight, sweet prince.

Observation Post articles reflect author observations. Any resemblance to news may be purely coincidental.

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