New research links poor sleep with higher anger levels in EMS providers

Study participants who reported routinely low-quality sleep had 18-35% higher anger levels than those who reported fair sleep quality


By Leila Merrill

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — A recently published study shows a correlation between EMS providers experiencing poor sleep and having higher anger levels.

A research team led by Bryce Hruska, assistant professor of public health in the Falk College at Syracuse University, looked at the sleep patterns of 79 EMS providers from central New York. Their results were published in Sleep Health: Journal of the National Sleep Foundation. 

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The study participants completed eight daily assessments.

For those who reported routinely poor sleep, anger levels were 18-35% higher than for those who reported fair sleep quality. Regardless of their usual sleep quality, workers who experienced poor sleep had a 5% higher anger level that day.

“We examined sleep quality as opposed to sleep quantity. This was intentional,” Hruska was quoted as saying in a university blog post. “While both sleep quantity and sleep quality are important sleep metrics, research indicates that sleep quality may be a superior predictor of many health and emotion-related outcomes.”

“There are documented connections between anger in the workplace and the impact that it has on organizational function, work climate and employee satisfaction,” Hruska said. “For example, when supervisors use anger to influence employees’ behaviors, it may promote retaliatory behaviors and lead to strained interpersonal relationships. This could be really problematic for a field like emergency medicine because high-functioning teams are crucial for ensuring effective patient care.”

Hruska said that attention to sleep quality is crucial for EMS providers.

“Our research suggests that habitual experiences and behaviors might be important targets compared to impactful, yet more infrequent day-to-day experiences. For example, some EMS workers tend to take more overnight shifts than others. Establishing an agency policy that limits the number of consecutive overnight shifts might be important. Sleep hygiene habits are also important. Regular over-caffeination, sugary snack consumption, or lack of physical exercise can detract from sleep quality. Sleep hygiene education training during employee onboarding may help to raise awareness around the importance of practicing habits that promote sleep quality.”

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