Introduction: Firefighters face unique stressors and health risks due to their occupation (e.g., chronic trauma exposure, toxins, injury). Recent studies have shown that firefighters identify sleep deprivation as their most prevalent issue. It is unclear how exactly poor sleep quality among firefighters affects their physical and mental health. This study looks to expand on existing research to identify the specific markers of health vulnerability among firefighters in relation to poor sleep quality.
Method: 127 firefighter paramedics completed self-report questionnaires including a demographic questionnaire, the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), The Posttraumatic Stress Disorders Checklist-Civilian (PCL-C), The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) and the World Health Organization- BREF (WHO-BREF).
Results: A statistical analyses of the data showed that the PSQI was significantly correlated with the physical health component on the WHO-BREF (r = -.53, p < 0.001), PSS (r = .52, p < .001), PCL-C (r = .54, p < .001), and calls per shift (r = .24, p < 0.01).
Conclusion: These results indicate that sleep quality is significantly related to health of firefighters on several dimensions. First, sleep quality on the PSQI was significantly correlated with elevations on of self-reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress and overall stress, indicating that there is a relationship among sleep quality in firefighters and these specific aspects of mental health. Additionally, the finding that self reported poor physical health was also related to poor sleep quality, suggests that firefighters who experience poor sleep and more likely to endorse physical health complaints which further substantiates the relationship between sleep and physical health. The statistical findings also suggest that firefighters who are assigned to stations that experience a high call volume per shift may encounter not only more stress and fatigue, but also confront a greater risk for sleep disturbances. This study’s findings have implications for the development of specific programs to assess sleep health in firefighters and target specific factors such as monitoring the number of calls respond, that appear to be central to the overall physical and mental health of firefighters.