Health and Wellness

Sleep Deprivation


Every person needs a different amount of sleep to awaken feeling refreshed. Individual sleep requirements are genetic and may be hereditary. Scientists consider six to 10 hours of sleep a normal range, with most people requiring 7.5 to 8.5 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. At least four to five hours of uninterrupted core sleep is necessary to maintain minimum performance levels. Sleep requirements may change slightly with age and can be affected by general health. Illness, stress, and depression cause the body to require more sleep to heal and recuperate.



Sleep deprivation occurs when a person does not get sufficient amounts of quality sleep. Work demands, family life, and lifestyle choices may cause a person to sleep fewer hours than his body needs to maintain wakefulness and energy levels. In the Fire Service most of us to Shift work and have to interrupt the body’s natural wake/sleep cycle. Over time deprivation of sleep can have both an acute and cumulative effect on our bodies and minds.


Sleep loss is cumulative and creates a sleep debt. Larger sleep debts require greater amounts of restorative sleep to return the body and mind to normal, rested levels. Sleep deprivation affects mental processes and intellectual abilities. It reduces performance on challenging tasks and negatively affects psychomotor skills. Mood, productivity, and communication skills suffer. Extended periods without sleep may cause hallucinations and paranoia. Lack of sleep may slow glucose metabolism by 30 to 40 percent and increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Sleep deprivation has also been linked to inadequate levels of the hormone leptin. Leptin signals the body to stop eating when it’s full. Decreased levels of leptin lead to increased carbohydrate cravings and eating.


“Physical and mental performances are not the only casualties of sleep deprivation. Even a minimal loss of sleep impacts general health. Chronic lack of sleep can contribute to serious health problems and even shortened lifespan. In a 1983 study at the University of Chicago, rats kept from sleeping became sick and died after two and a half weeks. Sleep-deprived rats that became ill but were then allowed to sleep, recuperated fully.”


Other effects of chronic sleep deprivation include:

l_f87471e113ec446492a91ba5cd258764•Depression and mood swings

•Gastrointestinal dysfunction

• Adult-onset diabetes

•Menstrual and infertility problems

•Increased use of drugs and alcohol

•Impaired sexual function

•Less satisfaction in personal and domestic pursuits

•Increased appetite and weight gain

•Personality changes, particularly loss of humor and increased ill temper.




“Firefighters need to get an adequate amount of uninterrupted sleep every off-duty night”

Quality sleep is the primary weapon in the battle against sleep deprivation. Firefighters must take advantage of opportunities for sleep, both on and off duty. Sleeping areas at home and at the fire station should be quiet and dark, and the room temperature should be cool. A comfortable, good-quality mattress is a must. Invest in comfortable bedding and pillows as well. Good sleep habits are essential. Firefighters need to get an adequate amount of uninterrupted sleep every off-duty night. Going to sleep and waking up at the same times every day, even on weekends, is important for maintaining the body’s natural rhythms.

Other tips for quality sleep include the following:

  • Avoid eating, reading, and watching TV in bed.
  • Restrict caffeine intake, and avoid caffeinated drinks at least six hours before bedtime.
  • Eat healthful foods. Do not eat large meals within four to five hours of sleeping.
  • Do not use alcohol to induce sleep. The effects of alcohol-induced drowsiness last only a few hours and cause poor-quality sleep.
  • Avoid long-term use of over-the-counter sleeping pills. Habitual use can reduce effectiveness and lead to addiction.
  • Reduce life stress as much as possible.Firefighter
  • Use relaxation techniques to relieve stress and invite sleep.
  • Exercise, but not more than four hours before bedtime. For 24-hour shift workers, outdoor exercise during daylight hours can help the body maintain natural biological rhythms and increase sleep quality off-duty.
  • Napping is an effective coping strategy that can be used in anticipation of a long night or during extended operations. Naps as short as 20 minutes can be effective. Two-hour naps during around-the-clock operations are highly restorative.
  • Daytime sleep after a night shift is essential to staying well rested, but trying to sleep when the rest of the world is awake can be challenging at best. The shift worker must emphasize to friends and family the importance of restorative sleep. Go as far as having daytime sleep scheduled on the family calendar along with ballgames, school meetings, and other activities.
  • Melatonin may help promote better sleep, particularly during the day. However, this supplement is not FDA-approved, and current research is contradictory on short-term and long-term effects.
  • People who are regularly unable to sleep should consult their physicians to rule out underlying health problems. Doctors may also be able to prescribe medication to help with sleep. Sleep disorders can be aggravated by shift work. Shift workers with diagnosed sleep disorders need to work closely with their physicians to effectively manage their disorder.



A great insomnia program is available through Mindability. Please click on the link to learn more.


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The Upstairs Lounge Fire, 24 June 1973

This would be the largest mass-murder and hate crime on the LGBT community in the United States  until the recent Orlando shootings.

On June 24, 1973, an arsonist attacked the Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans, Louisiana. The space was full of members of the local Metropolitan Community Church gathered to celebrate the last night of Pride Weekend. When the fire broke out, the bars on the article-2346743-1A75E9E8000005DC-346_634x443windows kept most people from escaping. As onlookers made jokes, MCC Pastor Rev. Bill Larson burned to death hanging out of a small opening screaming, “Oh, God, no!” When the flames subsided, 32 people were dead. No one was ever charged with the massacre.

In addition to the horribly incinerated Rev. Larson, twenty-eight other individuals lost their lives that night, and three others later died of injuries received in the fire.  The death toll was the worst of any fire in New Orleans history up to that time, including the great fire of 1788 that burned the old French Quarter to the ground.  It was also the largest mass murder of homosexuals ever in the U.S. and what is more, it is a crime that has never been solved.

But the city of New Orleans did its level best to ignore the whole event.  The fire exposed a surprisingly deep fissure of homophobia in a city that has historically prided itself on its egalitarianism and cosmopolitan tolerance.  For the first time, New Orleans had to confront the reality of a thriving homosexual community in its midst.  Evidently, this was a very hard lesson for it to learn.

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Hey, What’s it like to be a Paramedic?

I am sure that most of you have heard that question 1 or 200 times throughout your career. It is a topic of interest to the people around you and at the holiday parties that you may be attending this time of year.

Note: I use “Paramedic” as a general term to mean EMT, Firefighter, and/or First-Responder because the general public doesn’t know the difference, usually.

Every Paramedic has an emotion attached to that question. With some, it triggers their depression. In some, it sets their mind on a journey of every horrible call they have been to their entire career. Some get defensive because they feel like they are being scrutinized. Some get excited and are more than willing to tell people what they do and sugar coat the bad parts, so the sweater vest wearing guests don’t reel back in horror. Everyone has their own response to the question but the core of what they tell people is about the same.

ParamedicWhen people ask me that, I have just about every emotion listed above depending on the situation. The last few years, I have gotten a bit evasive because it has proven, in the past, not to be the question that they really want to ask. I try to get them off of the subject as quickly as possible with a quick “it’s a great job, you meet a lot of interesting people or it’s a different thing every day and that’s super duper” type answer. The entire time I am trying to deflect them, I am thinking ” you don’t want to open this Pandoras box” or “please don’t make me think about that stuff right now, I am having a decent time” but I try to wrap it up and ask them what’s up in their life.  It’s worth sitting for the next 20 minutes while they talk about how little Johny did in soccer or how Amanda did in gymnastics. Your kids are awesome (sarcasm). I love my kids (not sarcasm); even more so now that they are becoming adults and are out in the world. By the way, your boy looks like the dead kid I drug out of a 1995 Cavalier back in ’99. I love parties!

Anyway, the person asking the question doesn’t want to know what it is like to BE a Paramedic; they want to know what is the most horrible thing, the second most horrible thing and the top 10 ways you have seen people die as a Paramedic. They want a sample of what you have rattling around in your brain. They watch Chicago Fire and Nightwatch and assume that what they see is the real deal. I will give credit to Nightwatch, at least it is following crews on the street and attempting to show what it is like to be a street medic. I don’t have that many patches on my shirt, and I don’t call every patient “babe” or “Hun”, but it is a decent representation of our job. It is primetime TV however, so the rough stuff is blurred out. We are not lucky enough to

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be able to blur that stuff out of our memory.


I have seen several articles and blogs about the subject of this question and I find the responses interesting. They range from the conversation almost ending in a fist fight to the story teller breaking down into a puddle of their own tears, leaving the minivan driving guests trying to figure out why someone would do that kind of work for that kind of money and why that person was invited to the party. Your tears don’t go well with my Chardonnay and the guacamole dip. Whatever the result, we are the ones who are left at the end of the night feeling drained and violated mentally. The act of asking that question is the preface to emotional turmoil for the Paramedic. It is a scary place so answer the question at your own risk.

So what do I think about when that question is asked to me? Well, it immediately fires up synapses that are usually dormant, and it begins the roller coaster of emotion that I usually bury in alcohol before the night is over. If there is no alcohol, I probably would have left the party before the question is asked. Anyway, I usually ask some “safety questions” to the group that is congregated around. Like “do you really want to know” or “you don’t want some of this in your head so are you really that interested”? That is usually my subtle way of telling them that whatever your nightmares are tonight are not my fault.paramedic-main-image

Side note: I don’t want to give the impression that I work the party circuit during the holidays. I very rarely go to parties (the whole introvert thing), and I stay pretty quiet when I do end up at one. I get asked that question at various time throughout the year, but it comes up more for all of us this time of year.

So off we go on our emotional journey. I gauge what stories I am going to tell by the crowd that has formed. If they are people that know me pretty well, I talk about some of the more horrible stuff. If they are strangers, I keep it PG-13ish and leave out some morbid details. Some stuff that we see is impossible to explain to regular people because the only way it makes any sense is to see it first hand and absorb everything that led up to what you are looking at. We digest the information on scene and put it in our brain vault for later. I don’t try to give them a warm and fuzzy feeling about being a Paramedic because it is not warm and fuzzy (most of the time). I am honest and try to make them understand what the healthcare system looks like from the pre-hospital point of view. I try to give them insight on how a Paramedic fits in the overall scope of the system and how what we do affects the clinical course of our patients on down the line. I use the analogy that day or night, you have to go to a place you have probably never been before, talk to someone you have probably never met and decide whether they have a general math question, a story problem or a calculus equation for you to solve and you only have 5-10 minutes to solve it because you will be at the hospital ED in that amount of time. That doesn’t hold their attention for long because lets face it, they are all voyeurs. They want to peer into the dark parts of the job because, deep down, they are excited by stories of the suffering of other people. At least the ones they think are below them in social standing. They don’t realize that they are only one drift across the center line of being that ground beef in the drivers seat. That they are one Oxycontin away from being that unresponsive on the living room floor next to their daughter’s power wheels pink Jeep. That they are that one misplaced candle away from needing to be drug out of the inferno. That they are one cheeseburger away from being that coworker that their office pals had to do CPR on before I get there. They don’t realize that they could be that person that is minding their own business and gets hit with a stray round from the gun fight one street over. They don’t think that they may be a few failed life events away from being that

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homeless junkie I had to revive. They don’t realize, and I am jealous sometimes that they get to go through their day without thinking about those kinds of things or not remembering a call you had six years ago and thinking if I had just done that one thing, that person may still be alive today.


So I lay it out for them if they can take it. I talk about working full arrests on people that are younger than them and that those people don’t spring back to life after I shock them then hug me as we sing “don’t stop believin’”. I talk about how I had to lay in mud so that I could talk to the 19-year-old kid that is in an upside down car with the brake pedal jammed through his leg and his dead friends head stuck under the seat from the impact. I talk about how I went to a full arrest at a nursing home to find a guy my age who has been down for 10 minutes before they even called, cool to the touch in the extremities, has cancer and had refused hospice care and have to ask the lead Paramedic “what are we doing with this because someone needs to make a decision”. I tell them about handling 4 or 5 overdoses in the same shift and giving Narcan to the same person twice in 12 hours. I tell them about doing CPR on a 90-year-old woman and feeling all of her ribs break with CPR while her husband of 50 years stands next to me and asks if I need any water or if he needs to take a turn at compressions. I tell them about the time I went on a call to find one of my dad’s best friends crushed under a piece of farm equipment and having my dad ask me every day for a week what happened and how his friend looked when I got there and had to say to my dad “you let me keep that picture in my head. You don’t want it. You just remember him how he was”. They are on the edge of their seats and hungry for more, like waiting for the next action scene in a movie. I give them a lot, but I know when I have had enough, so I switch gears.

I start talking about the people that stop us when we are out getting food to say thank you for our service or pay for our meals. I tell them about the frail old lady who apologizes 30 times for calling me in the middle of the night to take her to the hospital because she is at the end of a very long road and knows that she probably won’t make it out of the hospital this time but wants something to ease the pain. I tell them about how awesome the shift was when I got to sleep all night. I talk about reading to the kids at the elementary school and talking to community groups about fire safety. I talk to them about the fun and frustration of mentoring new Paramedics and new employees. I talk to them about how we support each other when that horrible call kicks us all in the st

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omach. It gets emotional, but I use my 20 plus years of cramming my emotions down my spine and keep the conversation lively.


So we all have to deal with that question at one time or another. It brings out emotions in all of us that hang on for hours or days at a time. As I said in the last post, we all have different career paths. I may have seen more than the guy on my left but not as much as the girl on my right. They have been through what they have been through, and I have been through what I have been through. It affects us each a different way. Your answer to the question will be different than mine. That’s the way it is.

What will you have to say when they ask you? I would suggest that you be honest. If you get emotional, let them see that to. It may help them understand that the job you do is not like working on an assembly line or delivering the mail. Your job is woven into who you are and, in time, is wired directly into your heart and brain. That talking about it sometimes helps us to heal some of the wounds that we have acquired over the years of our career. Know when to say when. You need to know when you are done talking about it.

My answer to the question has changed over the years. The one constant is my ruthless attempts to freak my mother out about the situations I get into. I like to hear my mom say “I’m glad you are safe.” It never gets old.

What will your answer be?


The Great Whiskey Fire of 1875, Dublin


W1siZiIsInVwbG9hZHMvcGxhY2VfaW1hZ2VzLzc2ODFkMDNlY2VjZTA4MWNiY19pbGx1c3RyYXRlZGxvbmRvbi5qcGciXSxbInAiLCJ0aHVtYiIsIjk4MHhcdTAwM2UiXSxbInAiLCJjb252ZXJ0IiwiLXF1YWxpdHkgOTEgLWF1dG8tb3JpZW50Il1dOne of Dublin’s least recorded tragedies, The Great Whiskey Fire of 18 June 1875. Not only was it a tragic loss of whiskey, but it was also a tragic loss of life.

The fire broke out in the so-called ‘Golden Triangle’ in The Liberties area of Dublin when a malt house and bonded warehouse went up in flames. The blaze narrowly missed a convent and a maternity hospital but engulfed the largely impoverished area of Dublin.

In this poor part of nineteenth-century Dublin, it wasn’t uncommon to have farm animals living either inside or outside these tenements. As a result, panic-ridden animals ran through the street and only added to the mayhem of lava-like whiskey running alongside them.

545239_221055804723216_1524534478_nDubliners ran through the streets with their pots, pans and even boots in an effort to scoop up as much of this flaming uisce beatha (Irish Gaelic for whiskey) as they could. As one paper noted: ‘Two corn-porters, named Healy and M’Nulty, were found in a lane off Cork-street, lying insensible, with their boots off, which they had evidently used to collect the liquor.

The Dublin Fire Brigade arrived, under the leadership of Captain James Robert Ingram, who had been a fire officer in the New York Fire Department, and was renowned for his “unconventional” strategies to control fires. On one occasion he had ordered his men to resist putting out a fire on a blazing ship in Dublin harbor, and asked the Royal Navy to sink it instead. Ingram knew that to pour water on the fire would be disastrous as the whiskey would float on top of it like petrol and spread the fire throughout the city.

Instead, he sent for soldiers and ordered them to pull up paving stones and pour a mixture of sand and gravel on the whiskey. But he soon realized that wouldn’t be enough as the whiskey started to seep through the sand. Horse manure. Heaps of it lay in depots around the city. Ingram ordered that it be brought to the Liberties by the cartload and shoveled back onto the streets, from where it had once come, to form dams. As the burning whiskey met the dampimage manure it was soaked up and the fire slowly began to subside.

In 2014, a new whiskey was released by Malone’s Whiskey Company in honor of this fire, known as The Flaming Pig, a liqueur whiskey with hand-crafted spices.

13 people lost their lives to the deadly fire, however not a single one to flames or burns. Instead, the cause of death was alcohol poisoning from drinking the hot manure-filtered whiskey from the dirty Dublin streets.




Seminole County, FL Jail Fire, June 9, 1975

11 die in Florida prison fire

SANFORD , Fla . ( AP )—Eleven persons, most of them inmates trapped behind bars and screaming for help , died Monday when smoke from a smoldering fire swept the Seminole County Jail, officials said . At least 34 others were injured and admitted to area hospitals. It was like somebody was strangling me , said one inmate . I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t see. I didn’t think we were going to get out. And then I felt someone grab me. I couldn’t believe it . One of the first persons on the scene, Bill Reck, quoted workers in the county courthouse next door as saying that desperate prisoners banged on the walls to call attention to their plight . The smoke was terrible, terrible , said Sanford fire chief George Harriett, who led firemen up to the jail’s second floor/where inmates were trapped in locked cells. If you didn’t have a gas mask you couldn’t survive up there. Capt. J . Q . Galloway, jail shift commander at the time, said without elaboration, There are certain earmarks that point toward arson. He said state fire marshals were investigating. Harriett said the blaze started in a mattress in a hospital cell at the two-story central Florida jail, about 40 miles from Disney World. The heat spread it to a stack of other mattresses , and then it caught some papers and books on fire in an adjoining classroom, he said, The fire was small and contained, Harriett said, but huge billows of suffocating smoke and fumes quickly spread through the facility .

One rescued inmate said: We all laid down and threw mattresses over our faces . We were the lucky; ones . At least one of those reported dead on arrival Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 3.11.28 PMat area hospitals was a corrections officer. Officials withheld identification of the victims pending notification of relatives. Sheriff s spokesman John Spolski said the dead guard apparently was overcome by smoke on his second trip up the jail s narrow stairway to rescue unconscious prisoners. I don’t see how he did it, said Spolski. He went up one time and dragged some men down and then went up again. I tried to go up the stairs about 20 minutes after the fire started and couldn’t make it past three or four steps because of . the smoke . The fire began at 12 : 12 p.m. EDT, Harriett said, and the first units were on the scene within three minutes. The fire chief said at least two things hampered rescue efforts: —The rear entrance to the jail was blocked by more than 100 unclaimed bicycles being stored for an upcoming auction. —Jailers who tried to unlock cells were overcome by smoke , and gas-masked firemen had difficulty obtaining proper keys for cells. Officials initially said the jail elevator was knocked out in a power failure, disrupting rescue efforts. But they later said all inmates had been evacuated before the elevator failed.


NFPA Abstract of this Fire:








La Salle Hotel Fire, Chicago

La SalleJune 5, 1946

A fire broke out in the hotel, killing 61 people, many of them children. The fire began in the Silver Grill Cocktail Lounge on the lower floor on the La Salle Street side adjacent to the lobby before ascending stairwells and shafts. The fire started either in the walls or in the ceiling according to the Chicago Fire Department around 12:15 a.m. a8ecd040b4f8cfb5b26c557aff790ce0but they didn’t receive their first notification of the fire until 12:35 a.m. The fire quickly spread through the highly-varnished wood paneling in the lounge and the mezzanine balcony overlooking the lobby. While a significant number died from flames, a greater number of deaths were caused by suffocation from the thick, black smoke. Around 900 guests were able to leave the building but some 150 had to be rescued by the fire services and by heroic members of the public, including two LaSalle-Hotelsailors who were reported to have rescued 27 people between them. Two-thirds of hotel fire deaths in 1946 occurred in the La Salle and Winecoff (Atlanta) fires. The hotel fire was so devastating, it resulted in the Chicago city council enacting new hotel building codes and fire-fighting procedures, including the installation of automatic alarm systems and instructions of fire safety inside the hotel rooms.

The hotel was refurbished after the fire and was finally demolished in July 1976, to be occupied by the Two North LaSalle office building. This s kyscraper was completed on the site in 1979.