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03 Aug 2023

Sleep Healthy - Optimizing Sleep for Firefighters

Tommy Baekgaard Kjaer, Clemens Novak, Dorothee Knauf-Hübel, Martin zur Nieden, Anders Christian Geertsen. Co author: Maximilan Chaid.
CTIF Health Commission
Release date

Firefighters operate in a high-stakes environment that requires peak performance and quick decision-making. However, the demanding and unpredictable nature of their work schedules often disrupts their sleep patterns, leading to sleep deprivation and impaired cognitive and physical abilities.

Optimizing sleep for firefighters is crucial to ensure their well-being, performance, and safety. By understanding the challenges they face and implementing evidence-based strategies, firefighters can enhance their sleep quality and duration, leading to improved job performance and overall quality of life.

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) revealed a new classification, Monograph 132, on June 30th, 2022. In the new classification occupational exposure suffered by firefighters was classified as “carcinogenic to humans” (Group 1) based on “sufficient” evidence for cancer in humans. These exposures of firefighters commonly come from combus􀆟on products, diesel exhaust, building materials such as asbestos, ultraviolet radia􀆟on, and shi􀅌 work (interrupted sleep).

In this article, the CTIF Health Commission will describe some of the sleep-related challenges that firefighters face, to give the reader a better understanding of the importance of a good healthy sleep pattern, and to help optimize sleep during both shift and personal time.




Sleep Challenges for Firefighters:

Firefighters face unique challenges in achieving adequate sleep due to their shift work schedules. Shift work, including night shifts and rotating shifts, disrupts the body’s natural circadian rhythm and can lead to difficulties in falling asleep, staying asleep, and obtaining restorative sleep. Furthermore, the nature of their work, which involves responding to emergencies and exposure to traumatic events, can contribute to increased stress and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), further impacting sleep quality.


Educating and Supporting Firefighters:

Providing education on sleep hygiene and the importance of sleep is crucial for raising awareness among firefighters. Training programs can focus on managing the challenges associated with shi􀅌 work, optimizing sleep schedules, and implementing effective coping strategies for stress and traumatic events. Encouraging peer support and establishing resources, such as sleep support groups or online platforms, can provide a valuable network for firefighters to share experiences, seek advice, and support each other in prioritizing sleep.

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