Current Projects

1) Experimental design measuring the before-and-after effects of changing shift schedules (24/48 to 48/96) on firefighter sleeping habits and sleep quality. This study has three data collection rounds: pre, post1 (3-month), and post2 (6-month).

Update: View Results

2) Fire Department Program Elevation - Experimental design with pre and post measurements of sleeping habits, sleep quality, performance, and health variables during a shift schedule change. The results will provide evidence for decision making after the department's trial period.

Update: Analyzing Data

Past Projects

United States Fire Administration - Practitioner Summary
Joel M. Billings and Will Focht

Background: Previous medical research has found that acute and chronic adverse health effects are associated with poor sleep quality and sleep deprivation. Acute effects include poor performance, low levels of alertness, slowed reaction speed, inhibited memory recall, and decreased cognitive functioning. Chronic health effects such as increased risk of impaired cardiovascular function, obesity, diabetes, gastrointestinal problems, and depressed immune system can develop if poor sleep persists over long periods. Five previous studies conducted in four nations including the US have confirmed an elevated occurrence of poor sleep quality among fire and emergency service personnel, which can threaten the health and safety of both firefighters and the public.

This study investigated the relationship between sleep quality and three popular shift schedules [24on/48off, 48on/96off, and Kelly (on/off/on/off/on/off/off/off/off)] at six fire departments in three southwestern US states. Shift schedules that disrupt circadian rhythms contribute to poor sleep quality; the greater the disruption, the poorer the sleep quality.

Practitioner Takeaways from This Study
  • Seventy-three percent of firefighters report poor sleep quality.
  • The 24on/48off shift schedule is associated with the best sleep quality and the Kelly shift schedule is associated with the poorest sleep quality.
  • Working second jobs during time off can contribute to poor sleep quality.
  • Further studies are required to investigate the influence of factors other than shift schedule on sleep quality.
Available at USFA:

Research Article

Billings, Joel and Will Focht. 2016. "Firefighter Shift Schedules Affect Sleep Quality," Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine 58(3):294-298. DOI: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000000624
  • Abstract: The aim of this study was to investigate the prevalence and severity of firefighter sleep quality across department shift schedules. Methods: Sleep quality was assessed using a Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index in a sample of 109 male career firefighters from six fire departments in three Southwestern US states. The three shift schedules studied were 24on/48off, 48on/96off, and Kelly. Results: Seventy-three percent of firefighters report poor sleep quality. The 24on/48off shift schedule is associated with the best sleep quality and Kelly is associated with the worst sleep quality. Firefighters working second jobs report significantly poorer sleep quality than those who do not. Conclusions: Shift schedules that disrupt normal circadian rhythms more result in poorer sleep quality, which can lead to less effective emergency response and increased risk to firefighter health and safety.

Presentation Poster/Supplement

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