An oft overlooked population in research, firefighters of volunteer and paid-on-call fire departments respond to nighttime calls as a supplement to their normal working hours, making the duties taxing on the autonomic system leading to cardiovascular and endocrine disruptions. These duties also come with a tax burden on the volume and distribution of sleep. The current study was executed in order to gain valuable insight into the impact of nighttime call response in this population and the magnitude and duration of any perturbations. Eight firefighters from Greater Victoria Volunteer and Paid-on-call departments were recruited to wear Equivital EQ02 heart monitors and FitBit Charge 2 devices to record autonomic cardiovascular responses and track sleep between 1900 and 0700.(…)The results of this study demonstrate the presence of a significant shift in autonomic control from parasympathetic (PSNS) dominance to sympathetic control and PSNS withdrawal which evokes a cortisol-mediated stress response of comparable magnitude to literature standards for normal waking fluxes. Sleep volume, and arguably the most critical stage of sleep, rapid eye movement, are significantly impacted and the links between cognitive performance and both total and overall REM sleep indicate that call response does not just impact the cardiovascular system but may in fact be reducing mental acuity of firefighters. This is important as it has the potential to impact both self and team health and safety, not only during night time call response, but at the firefighters’ day jobs which they regularly proceed to the very same morning following a call, evidently with significant deprivation in sleep.
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