Welcome to the Sleep Series
Mini articles designed to provide you an overview
 of sleep in the fire and emergency services

Sleep Physiology
Sleep Recovery
Acute effects of Sleep Deprivation
Chronic effects of Sleep Deprivation
Treatments (part 1)
Treatments (part 2)

Fire and emergency service personnel are often subject to hazardous situations requiring them to make quick decision and actions that has the potential to bear severe consequences. They must remain ready to respond to any emergency during all hours of day and night. However, the circadian rhythm, in relation to alertness, may create difficulties when attempting to work during the night hours or when individuals have sustained wakefulness. The result may impair a responder's ability to perform and complete tasks. Not only can impaired first responders injure themselves but also cause severe injury to patients and other first responders, jeopardizing the safety and quality of the entire response.

Researchers in non-fire related fields have noted both acute and chronic adverse effects with sustained/prolonged wakefulness, poor sleep quality, and sleep deprivation. Some of these effects include decreased cognitive thinking, reaction speed, memory recall, and performance. Research also suggests adverse chronic health effects relate to sleep such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and immune deficiencies. While most research is not necessarily fire service-specific, the results are applicable. Firefighters are not immune to these negative health effects.

In the past five years, emerging research suggests that lack of sleep, poor sleep quality, and sleep deprivation may have consequences to firefighters and their community. Firefighters may likely develop sleep related problems and disorders if they 1) do not recognize/understand the basics of sleep physiology and 2) take corrective action when necessary. The consequences of reduced performance and alertness affect both fire and emergency services and communities. This includes injuries and death of firefighters and citizens, lost work, and damage to fire department equipment and residential property.

This series will discuss relevant sleep research and examine the unique challenges to firefighters. We will look at the relationship between sleep and firefighter health and safety through different fields. We will discuss important findings and provide some steps to help mitigate the effects of poor sleep quality and sleep deprivation.

Next Series - Sleep Physiology