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Sleep Disorders Highly Prevalent Among Firefighters

Update Date: Nov 13, 2014 10:05 PM EST

Firefighters are significantly more likely to suffer sleep disorders, according to a new study.

Researchers said this is worrying because sleep disorders significantly raise the risk of the two top causes of death for firefighters in the US- heart attacks and motor vehicle crashes.

Lead researcher Laura K. Barger, PhD, associate physiologist in Brigham and Women's Hospital Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, looked at the prevalence of sleep disorders and their associated health and safety consequences. They found that sleep disorders are highly prevalent among firefighters, and significantly increase the risk of motor vehicle crashes and cardio-metabolic diseases among firefighters.

The latest study involved 7,000 firefighter participants from 66 U.S. fire departments. The findings revealed that 37.2 percent of firefighters suffered sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia, shift work disorder and restless leg syndrome. Firefighters with sleep problems were also more likely to report being involved in car crashes and falling asleep while driving compared to those without sleep disorders. Furthermore, firefighters with sleep disorders were more likely to suffer cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and anxiety.

"Occupational sleep disorder screening programs can identify individuals who are vulnerable to adverse safety and health consequences, including those that are leading causes of death in firefighters," researcher Charles Czeisler, PhD, MD, FRCP, chief, BWH Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, said in a news release. "This study provides the rationale for further research evaluating the effectiveness of occupational sleep disorders management programs on disease risk, mental health and safety outcomes."

The findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine on Nov. 13.

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