Perceived effects of sleepiness and sleep deprivation among firefighters and emergency medical services providers working a 24/48 shift schedule

Dees, Lynne
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Sleep deprivation has been identified as a threat to health and safety worldwide, including among populations that serve the public such as physicians, nurses, and police officers. The present study examined perceived sleepiness in a sample of 242 firefighters who were systematically surveyed using the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS) and Duke Health Profile (DUKE).

Overall, the current study found a significant level of perceived sleepiness in this cohort of firefighter/EMS providers. The results of the one-way ANOVA revealed that those firefighters with other employment had significantly greater sleepiness, especially those who were self employed. In addition, the one-way ANOVA revealed increased sleepiness in those who worked more than 20 hours weekly at a second job. The one-way ANOVA also revealed significantly increased sleepiness in those who commuted 20 or more miles to work. Pearson's product moment correlations revealed a significant positive relationship between increasing numbers of hours worked in another job with an increase in sleepiness, as determined by increased ESS scores.

A one-way MANOVA was conducted to examine the effect of sleepiness on DUKE health scores. Post hoc comparisons using Tukey's HSD test revealed a significant univariate effect that identified that firefighters with high levels of sleepiness had significantly lower physical health, especially in the categories of perceived health and pain. The overall multivariate effect identified increased sleepiness with lower social health scores, higher anxiety levels, and increased pain.

Finally, the results failed to reveal significant differences in the number of patient care report omissions or medical mistakes between day and night hours as determined by nonparametric chi-square tests of association; however, injuries and accidents were found to be significantly more likely to occur during day rather than night hours. Open-ended questions assessed the firefighters' sleep health.

This study contributes to the undeveloped area of research within the empirical knowledge base regarding sleepiness and sleep deprivation among firefighters who work a 24/48 shift schedule. Study results serve as a needs assessment for sleepiness in this population and may assist health educators, fire administrators, and finally, firefighters in the identification and management of sleep deprivation.

Occupational health, Public health, Perceptions, Sleep deprivation, Firefighters, Emergency medical care, Working hours, Health and environmental sciences, Paramedic, Shiftwork