“Give Us This Day, Our Daily Rest”
Physical conditioning, regimented diet,
and safety refreshers are all essential ingredients for personal
for next fire season
and most likely your next fire assignment. While you can probably
add additional items to the above, consider this “sleeping giant” of
“The impact of disrupted sleep cycles and circadian rhythms
is a key factor when personal decision-making ability is necessary
during critical situations.” It is very important to understand
how the mechanics of alertness, sleep cycles, and circadian rhythms
interact to affect personal, “decision-making readiness.”
With regards to “normal” cycles of sleep and wakefulness,
once you get outside your normal average of sleep, decision-making
becomes not only a personal safety issue, but a primary concern for
those who depend on the decisions you make for the group!”
Many sleep science experts agree that
most adults need 8 hours of sleep every night. Research indicates
needs are genetically
determined, and vary – but only slightly. Cumulative sleep
deprivation or “sleep debt” grows over time. While most
people can recover from sleep debt with two good nights of sleep,
“bank” sleep. When sleep deprived, you are classically
okay with well-learned behaviors, for example: staying between the
lines while driving. However, if required to react to new stimuli,
such as an unexpected pedestrian crossing the road, reaction time
failures frequently occur. (www.nwcg.gov/teams/shwt/WR-LOAStandards2004.pdf).
The amount of sleep and the nature of your sleep patterns change
as you age, with sleep becoming less deep and more disrupted. While
total nocturnal sleep decreases as you age, it is significant to note
the need for sleep does not. Classic patterns of circadian rhythms
and associated sleepiness occur at 0300 to 0500 and 1500 to 1700 each
day in association with the time zone to which you are acclimated.
Also, your body temperature will drop as your body clock anticipates
this slow down. If you find yourself driving (www.nwcg.gov/teams/shwt/DrivingStandards2004.pdf)
while fatigued at these times, your body may push you toward “micro-sleeps”.
In transportation accident investigations where fatigue impacts have
been implicated as causal, most stem from an interaction between sleep
loss and disruption of circadian rhythms. In aircraft crew settings
where operational safety awareness is tied to shared monitoring of
systems and identifying potential hazards, the impacts of collective
fatigue on all crew members tends to shut down communication within
the crew, too often with deadly results.
How did this come to be a problem?
Modern society has come to accept the need to respond to the 24/7
life. We think we
can easily adapt to shift changes and cross country travel. We feel
that “cat naps” on the plane or in the waiting room can
catch us up on sleep deficits. Or that vigorous exercise prior to
bedtime can help us get to sleep even though our “personal”
clocks tell us it’s too early to lie down. There are merits
and limits to both of these prospects, as part of an understanding
of how our body is physiologically programmed for daily recovery with
productive sleep. Personal preparation for fitful performance on the
fire line, as well as safe travel to the fire and back can be aided
with an understanding of sleep effects.
Before you can tell the world “you’re good to go”,
you may need to ask your body if it agrees. Being able to interpret
that reply next summer may require some study now.