"Under field conditions, that might pose a problem if an emergency arises and you have to perform," Wesensten said. "What we're looking into are non-pharmacological ways to get more bang for your buck out of the sleep opportunities you have."
Wesensten says there are ways to drive recuperation during sleep using electrical stimulation, and possibly improve memory.
"There's some evidence it can be done," she said, "and some investigators have shown the procedure increases the positive impact of sleep on memory. First you can see whether you can produce a signal in the brain during sleep, and then transition someone into a deeper stage of sleep more rapidly."
That transition period is key, agrees Chris Berka, CEO and co-founder of Advanced Brain Monitoring.
"Usually we waste the most time trying to fall asleep," she said. "In some cases it can take 30 minutes."
Advanced Brain Monitoring is working on a mask, for example, that incorporates EEG-based data to provide facial warmth that can accelerate sleep and promote deeper sleep, and luminescent blue lights to invoke lighter stages of sleep to ease the wakeup process -- or to make the most out of a short nap.