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Firefighting is a demanding profession with high physical and psychological demands. Additionally, shift work results in abnormal working hours, decreased work-life balance, and poor recovery, impacting sleep behaviors. Poor sleep has been associated with health issues such as increased cardiometabolic risk, mental health disorders, and reduced cognitive function. While this population is prone to disrupted sleep while on shift, little research exists describing the effect of the on-duty sleeping environment on sleep quality in firefighters. PURPOSE: Examine the effect of the sleep environment on sleep quality in firefighters. METHODS: Sixty-six firefighters (Age= 40.89±11.05; Body Mass Index = 29.01±3.84) enrolled in a wellness program completed a health history questionnaire as part of their annual evaluation. Sleep quality was assessed using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI). Subjects completed the questionnaire twice (On-Duty and Off-Duty), and each version was scored using the PSQI scoring manual. A Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Test was used to examine differences in PSQI scores On-Duty vs. Off-Duty. A Mann-Whitney U test was used to determine differences in PSQI scores in Bunk vs. Dorm style sleeping quarters on-duty. RESULTS: Data revealed a significant difference in PSQI variables between On-Duty and Off-Duty, with Sleep Duration (Z = -5.078; p<0.001), Sleep Efficiency (Z= -3.991; p<0.001), Sleep Quality (Z = -4.466; p<0.001), and the Total PSQI (Z=-4.424; p<0.001) scoring significantly better Off-Duty compared to On-Duty. Additionally, no significant differences exist in PSQI variables or the Total PSQI score between Bunk and Dorm style sleeping quarters. CONCLUSIONS: Results of the current investigation indicate no significant differences in sleeping quality between different styles of fire station sleeping quarters but demonstrate significant differences in the place of sleep (Off-Duty vs. On-Duty). Specifically, Sleep Duration, Efficiency, Quality, and Total PSQI values were greater, resulting in better sleep, when sleeping off-duty. Future research should be done examining the relationships between call volume and sleep quality, as well as the effects of sleep related interventions for improving on duty sleep, as well as off-duty to aid in recovery from the acute sleep deprivation experienced on-duty.
Esper, Erica, "The Effect of Sleep Environment on Sleep Quality and Behavior in Firefighters" (2023). Celebration of Scholarship 2023. 8.