What Is Hot Bunking?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Hot bunking is a practice common particularly in the naval armed forces and on submarines where several soldiers share the same bed. The bed is still warm from the prior user, hence the term hot bunking. When sleeping quarters are limited, as they especially are on submarines, and when staffing is required around the clock, soldiers both work and sleep in shifts. This could mean as many as three people share the same bunk on a submarine.

Hot bunking is often used on submarines.
Hot bunking is often used on submarines.

Due to the overcrowding in many US prisons, there have been some suggestions that it might make sense for prisoners to also work and sleep in shifts. This type of arrangement would provide more bed space, but might be difficult from a security standpoint. An important aspect of guarding prisoners is the dependable nature of their schedules. In many prisons, people may spend the majority of their time in cells. It is suggested that hot bunking might be best used in minimum-security prisons where prisoners actually hold eight hour daily, or nightly, jobs.

It's suggested that hot bunking might be best used in minimum security prisons.
It's suggested that hot bunking might be best used in minimum security prisons.

The idea of sharing space for sleeping has led to other means in which people might also share limited resources. The term hot desking has been coined to mean several shift workers who share the same central desk at different times of the day. Since they don’t work the same shifts, the desk would otherwise not be occupied. From a perspective of saving space, hot desking is an economical and now more popular practice in the business world.

Another idea related to hot bunking is the idea of people in companies sharing cars, or the idea of several people owning a shared car. This is still called hot bunking a car, though as it becomes more common, it may soon lead to a different term. Again the focus is on pooling resources, saving space and money.

Not everybody is a fan of this practice, and it has sometimes been used in armed services in a discriminatory way. Fears particularly in the US military about women and men using the same sleeping quarters, or even more so, concern about homosexuals in the US armed forces has led to accusations that occasionally hot bunking is used to keep certain people from serving the same shift and sleeping at the same time.

Often the practice is not based on discrimination but merely a practice of best using resources. It can give you pause to think about what it might be like to never get to sleep in a freshly made bed. Yet it is only one of the many sacrifices people in active military service must make to perform their jobs under difficult circumstances.

Hot bunking is essentially sleeping in shifts.
Hot bunking is essentially sleeping in shifts.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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