HEALTHFight Fires Not Naps

Fight Fires Not Naps

By: John McKenzie

If taking a quick nap could make your day safer, would you do it? In a career like firefighting, where sleep deprivation and fatigue run rampant, a quick study on the benefits of napping at work might change your mind about the optics.

Being a firefighter is a dangerous job. Because of this, it is important for a firefighter to be in top shape to ensure that they can do their jobs properly anytime they are needed. But the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs and Ontario Municipal Human Resources Association reports that Canadian firefighters work on 10 to 14 to 24-hour shifts. Not to mention that firefighters also work for a straight six to seven days during the week. This kind of work schedule has a big impact on their health and safety. 

With the dynamics of firefighting and the tasks that need to be handled, sleep deprivation is an issue that shouldn’t be ignored.

One of the most effective ways to counter this is to let firefighters take naps during their shifts. Just to be clear—this doesn’t mean they are sleeping on their job because there are actually a lot of benefits to on shift napping.

  1. It improves your mood, alertness, and performance. In 2018, a study of NASA showed that the performance of military pilots and astronauts who take a 40-minute nap improved by 34% while their alertness increased by 100%. Hey, according to experts on WebMD, it can also help you alleviate stress and pressure from work.
  2. It is good for your mental health. The National Sleep Foundation reported that the experience of taking a nap at work can feel like taking a mini-vacation because it relaxes and rejuvenates the individual. You deserve that!
  3. It makes you think better. Taking naps also has cognitive benefits. In a study conducted by Weill Cornell Medical College, it was found that the participants who took 45 to 120 minute naps have improved scores in their cognitive-assessment battery tests. A separate study found that “perceptual deterioration” stops for participants who took a 30 minute nap between each test. Meanwhile, those who took a 60 minute nap reversed such deterioration. This is because the rest that comes with napping allows your brain to process the glucose from the food you have eaten, giving you “mental energy”.
  4. It decreases risk of accidents and injuries. Because of the effect that naps have on your alertness, it minimizes the risk of injuries and of accidents. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation found that short naps decrease the risk of car accidents caused by drowsy driving. Talk about keeping you safe, right?
  5. It improves your physical health. Aside from the mental and cognitive benefits, taking naps actually improves your physical health. Experts found that those who take a nap three times in a week have a 37% lower risk of dying from a cardiovascular illness. Napping also boosts your immune system and lowers your blood pressure if you are hypertensive.
  6. It leads to better sleep hygiene. You may think that taking a nap may disrupt your body clock which would interrupt your sleeping pattern during the night. But sorry to burst your bubble because studies have shown that taking afternoon naps, especially around one to three in the afternoon, helps you improve your nighttime sleep. This would greatly help during high-alert fire seasons.
  7. Napping has been attached to great persons and leaders in history. Do you know who else is known to be nappers? Well, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan! Now, it seems being a napper comes with great company!

But of course, there is still a stigma to the thought of taking a nap at work because they think you are sleeping on the job. The good news is that companies and government institutions are becoming more aware about the benefits of allowing employees to nap. In Australia, for example, workplaces have already allowed firemen to take naps in their workplace. As a result, companies such as the Vancouver Hospital, or even Procter and Gamble, have installed napping rooms and sleeping quarters.

There are actually great benefits to workplace napping for firefighters!

So if allowing firefighters to doze off for 20 to 40 minutes can enable them to be more alert, which would, in turn, lead to better work performance, then why not? This short nap may allow them to save more lives.

Photo by Canva