Archive for the ‘overweight’ category

The Critical Importance of Sleep for Firefighters

September 11, 2019

September 11 is a day we will never forget. I am forever thankful for the firefighters and others who step forward to watch over us all as first responders.

In honor of the day, here is a summary of what we know about firefighters’ sleep, and the costs they pay to provide 24/7 service.

It is critically important that firefighters are able to perform well when they are on duty, however, a large number are impaired by inadequate sleep. Many common concerns of firefighters such as cancer and cardiovascular disease risk, barriers to physical fitness, food culture, psychological stress from trauma and injuries (1), are related to or can be improved by sleep health.

Health and Safety:

The effects of inadequate sleep on human mental and physical health have been well documented. For firefighters the leading causes of death are heart attack and auto accidents (2).

  • 51.2% of firefighters report disturbed sleep, which contributes to psychological distress (3).
  • 37.2% of firefighters surveyed screen positive for sleep disorders: 28.4% obstructive sleep apnea, 9.1% shift work disorder, 6% insomnia, and 3.4% restless legs syndrome (3). Of these, the majority (80%) have not been diagnosed or treated.
  • Those who have sleep disorders are twice as likely to have an auto accident, and 2.4 times as likely to experience falling asleep while driving. They also are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, anxiety and depression (4).
  • Another study found that 17% have sleep problems, and as sleep hours decreased, so did physical quality of life (5).
  • Sleep deprivation among firefighters appears to increase high-risk behaviors such as alcohol consumption and decrease mental health and physical well-being (6).
  • Compared to firefighters with 8 hours of sleep, sleep deprived firefighters show changes in both their inflammatory cells and evening cortisol levels which has been shown to have adverse health effects (7).
  • Night and extended shifts increase the prevalence of cardiovascular and mental health disorders (8).

Shift Work and Performance:

Night shift and the extended shifts typical among firefighters are inherently difficult, though improved individual sleep plans and administrative policies can improve daytime sleep and alertness at night.

  • Response time by firefighters is slowest at 5am, twice as long as at 4pm (9).
  • The risk of a work related injury peaks at 2am (10).

Costs:

Firefighter injuries in the U.S. are estimated to cost $3.7 to 11.7 billion per year (11). Sleep deprivation is known to contribute to obesity via changes in appetite hormones, calorie intake and the insulin system. Obese firefighters miss five times as many work days as those of normal weight, at an annual cost of $1683 per employee (12), and those with BMI >30 have a three times increase in worker compensation claims due to injury (13).

Public safety personnel need to be able to perform well at all times of the day and night, however firefighters are not getting adequate sleep to perform well, make good judgments, or maintain their physical and mental health. Implementing wellness and fitness programs has been shown to improve cardiorespiratory endurance, experienced health and job satisfaction, while decreasing weight, high blood pressure and anxiety(14). Providing expert-led sleep and fatigue management education to firefighters will assist in achieving a higher level of sleep health(15) and safety on the job. A simple sleep education and screening program for firefighters resulted in a 46% decrease in disability days, and 24% decrease in injury reports (16).

I’m Dizzy with Sleep Debt

May 31, 2012

So although I’m a sleep expert, unfortunately that doesn’t make me immune to the havoc that life events can wreak on sleep health. My usual healthy 8.3 hour average sleep which leaves me energetic and sharp all day has plummeted to a mere 6.5 hours over the last week. I’m not alarmed, as identifiable events are interfering with my sleep, and I know that once those settle down my sleep will easily bounce back. Today I’m feeling the effects of acute sleep deprivation, a perfect chance for a blog post.

During acute sleep deprivation, people can feel a variety of somatic symptoms, like stomach or head aches. Others may feel dizzy or have difficulty concentrating. And of course there are performance decrements which we’ve discussed previously, and health problems too.

For me, today, the sleep loss is making me feel slightly dizzy, ravenously hungry for sugar (which is more difficult to resist than usual), my eyes feel irritated, and I’ve been making errors like hitting the wrong elevator button, and feel I need to work extra hard to pay attention while driving. My temperature control also seems to be off.

Now 6.5 hours of sleep nightly for 5 nights is not bad for many people. About 30% of American workers report getting less than 6 hours on work nights. What I wonder is whether people who are habitually sleep deprived get accustomed to the feelings of sleep debt, so that it becomes their normal? Granted I’m not a good person to say, both because I spend more time thinking about sleep than average, and because I’m usually well-rested, so can really notice the effects of sleep debt.

Today and the rest of the week I’ll keep my healthy sleep habits in place, and not worry about it, knowing my sleep will get back on track in a day or two. Until then, sugar anyone?

Sleep Health in ‘Whole Living’

September 27, 2011

Recently I spoke with journalists at ‘Whole Living’ along with other sleep specialists. It’s a great article, filled with information and skills that adults need to sleep well. Here’s a few highlights:
– Go to bed at your ideal bedtime
– Create a great place to sleep
– Avoid alcohol, the snooze button and oversleeping
– Learn to calm yourself back to sleep
More information on the many ways sleep impacts your health (think weight gain, heart disease, and wrinkles) can be found in the full article in the October issue. http://www.wholeliving.com/

Optimal Sleep

October 21, 2009

The Most Common Sleep Problem

Once again, in 2008, insufficient sleep was the most common sleep problem in America.   More than 47% of adults and 57% of children get less than the recommended amount of sleep each night.   This chronic partial sleep deprivation can have global health effects, some of which we’ve discussed in past newsletters.   Here are some of the effects:

    – appetite regulating hormones leptin and ghrelin are disordered, causing increased hunger, increased appetite for high caloric, high fat and simple carbohydrate foods, and weight gain
    – physical agility, coordination and reaction time are impaired, contributing to drowsy driving auto accidents
    – irritability and mood impairment increases
    – memory, concentration and creative problem solving are impaired

The Optimal Sleep Test

We’re raising awareness of insufficient sleep by sponsoring The Optimal Sleep Test.   Sleep optimization is done by researchers to determine how much sleep is ideal.   During sleep optimization participants spend much more time in bed and allow themselves to sleep as long as they can, and wake on their own without an alarm.   Participants will commonly sleep hours extra for the first couple weeks, and then their sleep will settle into a regular nightly amount.

To do The Optimal Sleep Test:
1. Start at the beginning of your weekend, and continue for at least 5 nights.
2. Set your bedtime close to your regular bedtime, maybe 30 minutes earlier.
3. Make your room as dark and quiet as possible, consider turning down phone ringers or other sounds that may disturb you.
4. Allow yourself to sleep as late as possible in the morning, waking without an alarm.
5. At the end evaluate the symptoms above and see how they’ve improved.

You may find that the added sleep benefits you to the point that it is worth having fewer active hours in exchange for feeling better during the time that you are awake!

Overweight and Sleep Deprived

September 17, 2009

Weight Loss
Recent research has established that when a person is sleep deprived by even just a few hours (say sleeping 6 hours a night), their appetite and metabolism are affected. When you are sleep deprived you will feel more hungry, and want to eat more fatty and starchy foods than when you are well rested. Also your blood sugar regulation will change, so that your blood sugar is higher than when you get adequate sleep. For those of you who’d like to lose weight, make it easier to make healthy food choices by getting the sleep you need.

Are you sleep deprived?
If you must always be awakened by an alarm, find yourself yawning through the day, or have low energy you may be sleep deprived. Recent polls of Americans showed that 16% of Americans are getting less than 6 hours of sleep per night, and 27% characterized themselves as not getting the sleep they need.

To remedy sleep deprivation try going to bed slightly earlier each night, until you feel energetic and ready to start the day when the alarm goes off. Keep your wake time the same each day, as this is most important to set your body clock. Ideally you will get to the point that you will wake up ready to go even before the alarm! That will be a great feeling!