More than 60 percent of deaths of firefighters are caused by heart attacks and traffic accidents. Sleep disorders may be an important contributing factor, a new study suggests.
THE BIOLOGY OF SLEEP
Every person needs a different amount of sleep to awaken feeling refreshed. Individual sleep requirements are genetic and may be hereditary. Scientists consider six to 10 hours of sleep a normal range, with most people requiring 7.5 to 8.5 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. At least four to five hours of uninterrupted core sleep is necessary to maintain minimum performance levels. Sleep requirements may change slightly with age and can be affected by general health. Illness, stress, and depression cause the body to require more sleep to heal and recuperate.
WHAT IS SLEEP DEPRIVATION?
Sleep deprivation occurs when a person does not get sufficient amounts of quality sleep. Work demands, family life, and lifestyle choices may cause a person to sleep fewer hours than his body needs to maintain wakefulness and energy levels. In the Fire Service most of us to Shift work and have to interrupt the body's natural wake/sleep cycle. Over time deprivation of sleep can have both an acute and cumulative effect on our bodies and minds.
THE EFFECTS OF SLEEP DEPRIVATION
Sleep loss is cumulative and creates a sleep debt. Larger sleep debts require greater amounts of restorative sleep to return the body and mind to normal, rested levels. Sleep deprivation affects mental processes and intellectual abilities. It reduces performance on challenging tasks and negatively affects psychomotor skills. Mood, productivity, and communication skills suffer. Extended periods without sleep may cause hallucinations and paranoia. Lack of sleep may slow glucose metabolism by 30 to 40 percent and increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Sleep deprivation has also been linked to inadequate levels of the hormone leptin. Leptin signals the body to stop eating when it's full. Decreased levels of leptin lead to increased carbohydrate cravings and eating.
“Physical and mental performances are not the only casualties of sleep deprivation. Even a minimal loss of sleep impacts general health. Chronic lack of sleep can contribute to serious health problems and even shortened lifespan. In a 1983 study at the University of Chicago, rats kept from sleeping became sick and died after two and a half weeks. Sleep-deprived rats that became ill but were then allowed to sleep, recuperated fully.”
OTHER EFFECTS OF CHRONIC SLEEP DEPRIVATION INCLUDE:
COUNTERMEASURES AND COPING STRATEGIES
"Firefighters need to get an adequate amount of uninterrupted sleep every off-duty night"
Quality sleep is the primary weapon in the battle against sleep deprivation. Firefighters must take advantage of opportunities for sleep, both on and off duty. Sleeping areas at home and at the fire station should be quiet and dark, and the room temperature should be cool. A comfortable, good-quality mattress is a must. Invest in comfortable bedding and pillows as well. Good sleep habits are essential. Firefighters need to get an adequate amount of uninterrupted sleep every off-duty night. Going to sleep and waking up at the same times every day, even on weekends, is important for maintaining the body's natural rhythms.
OTHER TIPS FOR QUALITY SLEEP INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING:
A great insomnia program is available through Mindability. Please click on the link below to learn more.
Researchers screened a nationally representative sample of 7,000 firefighters in 66 fire departments for obstructive sleep disorder, insomnia, restless leg syndrome and shift work disorder. They interviewed the subjects and documented traffic accidents using police reports and detailed descriptions from subjects.
The study, published in The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, found that about 37 percent of the firefighters screened positive for at least one sleep disorder, most for obstructive sleep apnea.
After controlling for sex, race, body mass index, smoking and other factors, the researchers found that compared with sound sleepers, those with a sleep disorder were about twice as likely to have a motor vehicle crash, to nod off while driving, and to have cardiovascular disease or diabetes. They were more than three times as likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.
The investigators acknowledge that some of their data depended on self-reports, which are not always reliable. Still, the lead author, Laura K. Barger, an associate physiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said that screening for sleep disorders is important. “If you can get these people evaluated and treated when necessary,” she said, “you can improve the health of workers.”
This is an article from the NYtimes and can be viewed here