Sleep deprivation is an accepted danger within our career field. Emergency service providers wear sleep deprivation like a twisted badge of honor. I am as guilty as anyone with this. Early in my career I worked 48's, 96's, and 100 plus hours straight with little to no rest. I did not really know any better, because everyone was doing it. I was under the misguided impression that being sleep deprived was one of those things we just did. We fueled on cheap truck stop coffee, caffeine pills, (prior to energy drinks) and tobacco. On a many of occasions my partner and I would swap transports and I would be driving with the air on full blast, and my head out the window in the attempt to get us to the hospital alive. We would go for days, transport after transport, no rest, no shower and little to eat or drink. I thought getting a .99 cent hot dog and free 32 oz drink at the gas station was the normal menu for a broke EMT making $7.44 an hour. Little did I know, I was setting my self up for a career of health and mental issues, as well as one hell of an addiction problem.
Fast forward 15 years... As the nurse turned on the electric razor to shave my groin, prior to the cath lab team inserting a metal wire that would eventually be guided into my left anterior artery in my heart; I asked myself how did this happen? Ignorance is bliss I suppose... Once I took a step back and took an honest look at my life style habits and work life, it all made sense. I was to blame. My health was a direct result of my actions, and all actions have consequences. So where did my health go wrong? Where did I get off the tracks? Ahhhh, yes. My sleep sucked!
Sleep deprivation and poor sleep habits have a significant increase in all cause mortality. (NCBI PMC2864873) Point blank, it is killing you all quickly, yet is widely accepted, as well as encouraged within our career field. EMS is the only career field that doesn't have shift limits and time limits on it's providers. I went on auto pilot for years, most of which I don't even remember. Days ran together, brief flashes of memories tied together with caffeine. Why if this practice is so dangerous, and has a laundry list of detrimental health affects, is it so widely accepted? Once again, ignorance is bliss. Providers are shamed if they dare utter the words, "I am sleepy" or "I need a break." All the majority of management sees, is a bunch of mindless followers tirelessly deploying into the night amidst the repetitive sounds of sirens and horns. Need you mobile on the one, still wretches my soul and haunts my dreams. Unit 702, need you mobile. AAAAAHHHHHHHH, shoot me.
Let's us talk for a second on the mental health effects of sleep deprivation alone. We can visit the physical, spiritual and emotional another day. We are more susceptible to post traumatic stress, depression and anxiety when we are sleep deprived. We are 900 times more likely to have suicidal ideations when we are sleep deprived. After roughly 16 hours of no sleep and at a constant sympathetic state, we have the same effects as a blood alcohol of .08. Hell, just let us drink on duty. Studies have shown that the average human can only consciously process so many decisions before becoming decision fatigue. Add adrenal fatigue, poor diets and lifestyle habits, you have a recipe for a nice little disaster. The majority of emergency workers are ticking mental and physical time bombs, just waiting to explode.
Our bodies need rest, plain and simple. During sleep is when the body rejuvenates, grows and recovers. When we do not give the body time to rest, it starts to break down. Sleep is vital for optimal cellular rejuvenation and function. yet we blow it off likes it is nothing. Our serotonin and melatonin productions decreases, our other hormones decrease and we have the audacity to ask why we don't feel good. We get grumpy, we aren't firing on all cylinders and a lack of sleep literally dumbs us down. We cannot function on no sleep. We get pissy and snappy, and get reported by local er's for blowing up on a nurse or patient. When we get written up, we should just sign it "Sleep deprived." We are unable to effectively control ourselves when we are sleep deprived. Sleep issues put the emergency workers at a greater risk for serious health issues such: heart disease, heart attacks, heart failure, irregular heart beats, high blood pressure, strokes, diabetes and whole other slew of fun things. Not to mention the sexual dysfunctions that follow sleep deprivation,
I always feel the need to shed light on the safety issues of sleep deprivation, especially getting behind the wheel of a vehicle and driving at high rates of speed with the sleep equivalent of about 4 beers in our bodies. Emt's and medics are killed every year in accidents where sleep deprivation was a direct cause. Sleep is a miracle drug that is given to us by the proverbial God's. Why must we take is for granted?
Sleeping Well Benefits?
1. Heart Health! Without it, well ya know.
2. Cancer Prevention, because cancer sucks!
3. Stress Reduction! Self explanatory
4. Reduces Inflammation. Systemic inflammation leads us down a delirious road in health.
5. Keeps you more alert.
6. Memory improvement.
7. Weight Loss.
8. Makes you smarter, some of you need that, including myself.
9. Reduces mental health symptoms.
10. Helps the body repair itself.
If you'd like more info on hacking and improving your sleep, hit us up at 911BuddyCheck.org! We can help improve your sleep and health!