The field of public safety is plagued by long shifts and interrupted sleep, often resulting in sleep deprivation and fatigue in its workforce. This is a noteworthy issue as fire, EMS and law enforcement personnel are tasked with protecting and caring for the public—a responsibility they should be well-rested to efficiently carry out. In a study recently published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, “Should public safety shift workers be allowed to nap while on duty?”, Patterson et. al examine the advantages and disadvantages of allowing EMS personnel to take naps during shifts. The study states that more than half of EMS providers reported excessive daytime sleepiness or fatigue, insufficient recovery between shifts and poor quality of sleep; many in the industry also work more than one job. The authors note that napping may combat fatigue induced by EMS providers’ difficult working conditions and improve their overall health and safety. However, this option is not available to all EMS personnel depending on their departments’ protocols on sleeping during shifts.
Results of the study indicate that intra-shift naps improved providers’ recovery between shifts, decreased fatigue, sleepiness and anxiety, alleviated burnout and even lowered their blood pressure. On the other hand, drawbacks of napping include sleep inertia causing performance deficits, costs related to these poorer performances, and negative perceptions from the public. Patterson et. al acknowledge these consequences are valid but argue that the existing evidence in favor of intra-shift napping supports its efficacy in reducing fatigue and improving health and wellness among EMS and other public safety personnel.