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Pa. doctors stress the benefits of napping for first responders

The results of the study showed that even a 30-minute nap could clear the mind and allow for better decision-making

By Rachel Engel

PITTSBURGH — A new study from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center emphasized the benefit of napping, particularly for shift workers and those with high-risk jobs, such as firefighters and EMS providers.

Dr. Daniel Patterson, PhD, associate professor at UPMC, said short naps are good for an energy boost and to avoid the groggy feeling that typically comes from longer sleep.

“What we discovered was that to avoid sleep inertia or that groggy feeling that you feel when you wake up after a nap, it’s best to engage in short duration naps, such as 30 minutes or less. If you’re interested in health outcomes, such as mood or cardiovascular outcomes and you have the permission or opportunity, longer duration naps are most appropriate,” he told KDKA 2.

Ross/West View EMS Assistant Director Greg Porter said any time his employees have a moment to rest, he encourages it.

“We call it a safety nap,” he said. “When they can get a safety nap in, it’s a really good idea to do that. Any deposit into the sleep bank is important for these guys because they might be up for the entire night.”

Brian Maloney, director of Plum EMS, said a lack of sleep is like being under the influence of alcohol.

“I’ve been working EMS for 22 years and there have been times where it almost feels like you’re intoxicated, you’re so tired and exhausted,” he said.

For Patterson, it’s crucial that first responders are as rested as possible while on the job.

“Do you want a paramedic or first responder who’s been awake for 24 hours to care for you or your loved one? I don’t think so,” he said.