Not getting enough sleep can impact your mood, communication, ability to concentrate, and ability to handle stress. Often times people are sleep deprived and never realize it until something significant happens (i.e., mistakes at work, accidents, arguments with family, irritability, and even injury). With the demands of a 24-hour work day, it is easy for first responders to lose quality sleep and become sleep deprived due to long working hours, working overtime, and frequent calls and interruptions. Over time, the body may start to suffer from the lack of sleep and may cause problems in other areas. According to the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), sleep deprivation have been linked to weight gain, sleep apnea, heart disease, and some cancers.
It is typically advised to get 7.5-8 hours of sleep (National Sleep Foundation, 2005). However, the amount of sleep a person needs is going to be based on several factors including genetics, environment, activity level, age, and overall health. Regardless of individual factors, it is clear that for first responders, quality sleep should be priority as it could essentially be the line between life and death for them and the communities they serve. First responders need to be alert and able to perform at their best in their jobs. And, inadequate sleep, sleep deprivation, and insomnia can have serious implications for on the job performance.
Here are some tips to improve sleep quality:
- Limit caffeine intake at least 6 hours before bed, especially on off duty days
- Limit alcohol use to aid in sleeping
- Use relaxation techniques to relieve work, family, and life stress
- Build naps into long work hours
- Monitor health problems and/or check with physicians to ensure there isn’t an underlying health problem
- Limit use of electronics while trying to get to sleep – the blue light from phones and electronics keep brain activity at an increased level which makes it difficult to fall asleep
- Exercise regularly, keeping in mind to limit intense physical activities to at least 4 hours prior to going to bed
For more information on sleep deprivation in Fire Fighters and EMS responders, check out this final report from the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) – CLICK HERE https://aams.org/toolbox/IAFC%20-%20Effects%20of%20Sleep%20Deprivation%20Report.pdf
If you would like to meet with someone about developing healthier sleep habits, please contact the Peer Support Program, Dr. Butler, or D. Kruse. There is hope and recovery and we are here to help you!