Sleep disturbances and mental health challenges are putting close to half of America’s firefighters at high risk of emotional fatigue and exhaustion, new research shows.
The research was conducted by Monash University in Australia in collaboration with Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
Of the 6,307 firefighters from 66 fire departments across the USA that took part in this cross-sectional study, 49% exhibited high levels of physical and emotional burnout in at least one area.
Firefighters who screened positive for a sleep disorder, in particular insomnia, reported a threefold increased risk of emotional exhaustion. Those with a self-reported diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression or anxiety had up to four-times the increased risk of burnout.
Sleepiness and short sleep, even in firefighters who did not screen positive for a sleep disorder, were also associated with high levels of burnout.
Researchers investigated whether sleep disorder risk and mental health outcomes in firefighters were associated with burnout, particularly emotional exhaustion, and examined the role of sleep at work in these relationships.
The study identifies the physical and emotional impact that sleep loss and exhaustion can have on firefighters’ ability respond to infernos and other incidents where lives and property are in danger.