Firefighters, who respond to emergency calls around the clock and frequently work 24-hour extended shifts, often experience acute sleep deprivation, chronic sleep deficiency and misalignment of the body clock.
There are challenges associated with implementing programs like this one in operational fire departments where heavy training loads are common. The challenges are vastly outweighed, however, by the potential improvement in the health and safety of firefighters, regardless of which method of training is selected.— Laura Barger, PhD, co-author
Recently, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) researchers developed a sleep health program (SHP) to educate firefighters on sleep health and screen firefighters for common sleep disorders. Eight fire departments with more than 6,000 firefighters from around the country, each with three or more station houses, participated in this study.
- Firefighters involved in the program increased their knowledge of sleep disorders, fatigue countermeasures, and the impact of sleep on health and performance.
- A majority of firefighters found the SHP to have useful information and would recommend such a program to other fire departments. At the conclusion of the study, 42 percent of firefighters participating in focus groups reported that they had positive changes in their sleep behavior.
- Researchers evaluated the impact of three different methods of training: expert-led, train-the trainer and online. They found that expert-led programs showed the most success and firefighters in expert-led sessions were more likely to seek clinical evaluation, if identified as at-risk for a sleep disorder.
Barger, L. K., O’Brien, C. S., Rajaratnam, S. M., Qadri, S., Sullivan, J. P., Wang, W., . . . Lockley, S. W. (2016). Implementing a Sleep Health Education and Sleep Disorders Screening Program in Fire Departments. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 58(6), 601-609. doi:10.1097/jom.0000000000000709
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See also: The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Fire Fighters and EMS Responders, a report and educational program from the U.S. Fire Administration and the International Association of Fire Chiefs.