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California Fire Service since 1922

Better sleep for firefighters: Insights from the Huberman Lab

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From the CSFA Health, Wellness & Benefit Committee

Firefighting, one of the most demanding professions, requires impeccable mental clarity, physical fitness, and emotional stability. A major contributor to these attributes? A good night’s sleep. Yet, due to erratic schedules and the high-stress nature of the job, firefighters often struggle with sleep. Dr. Andrew Huberman’s insights from the Huberman Lab Podcast offers a treasure trove of actionable advice for better sleep. Let’s tailor these insights specifically for firefighters.

  1. Harness the Power of Sunlight:
  • Aim to get outside within 30-60 minutes of waking. Even if it’s before your shift starts, it can make a difference.
  • Before sunset, expose yourself to sunlight again, especially if your shift runs into the night.
  • If you’re stationed in a place with minimal sunlight, consider an artificial daytime simulator.
  • Remember, sunlight exposure helps reset your circadian clock, a critical aspect for firefighters working in shifts.
  1. Consistency is Key:
  • Whenever possible, wake up at the same time, even on off days.
  • Sleep as soon as you feel drowsy. Overstretching can cause mid-night wakefulness.
  1. Limit Caffeine Intake:
  • As firefighters often rely on caffeine for alertness, it’s essential to know when to stop. Avoid caffeine 8-10 hours before you plan to sleep.
  1. Try Relaxation Techniques:
  • For anxiety or sleep disturbances, the Reveri app’s sleep self-hypnosis or the NSDR protocol on YouTube might help. These tools can help you transition from high-adrenaline scenarios to a calm sleep state.
  1. Control Light Exposure:
  • Especially during night shifts, avoid bright overhead lights between 10 pm and 4 am. Use minimal artificial lighting, just enough to ensure safety.
  1. Nap Wisely:
  • A short nap can recharge you, but ensure it doesn’t exceed 90 minutes. Shorter naps can prevent grogginess and ensure readiness for emergencies.
  1. Supplements:
  • While not a replacement for sleep, certain supplements can aid relaxation. Magnesium, Apigenin, Theanine, Glycine, and GABA are a few mentioned by Dr. Huberman. However, always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any supplementation.
  1. Stay Cool:
  • Keeping the sleeping environment cool is essential. Body temperature plays a vital role in sleep quality. Especially after physically demanding tasks, ensure you cool down adequately before sleeping.
  1. Limit Alcohol and Medication:
  • These can disrupt sleep quality. Remember, deep restorative sleep is crucial after demanding shifts.
  1. Flexibility with Changing Needs:
  • Sleep needs can change with age, seasons, or work stress. Stay attuned to your body’s signals and adjust your routine as needed.

Sleep is the bedrock of performance. For firefighters, ensuring quality sleep can be the difference between optimal response during emergencies and potential risks. Harness these insights, master your sleep, and remain at the top of your game.

Note: Always consult with a healthcare professional before making significant changes to your sleep or dietary routines.

Information for his article based on:

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