National Wildfire Coordinating Group

RT-130, Wildland Fire Safety Training Annual Refresher (WFSTAR)

Sleep Deprivation

RT-130 Decorative banner. Group of photos depicting wildland firefighters performing various duties.

Examine how sleep deprivation affects the human brain and discuss how it can impact wildland firefighters.
Category: Medical
Core Component(s): Incident Reviews and Lessons Learned
Estimated Delivery Time: 15 min; Video Length: 4:20



Examine how sleep deprivation affects the human brain and discuss how it can impact wildland firefighters.

Facilitator Preparation

  • Review the video and module tools.
  • Consider additional activities and discussion questions pertinent to the location and agency.

Facilitating the Discussion

  • Show the video.
  • Facilitate a small or large group discussion using the activity and discussion questions.

Discussion Questions

As a wildland firefighter, it is challenging to get proper sleep and rest while fighting fires. Cumulative sleep deprivation and fatigue can occur as a result.

  1. Share some experiences from when you didn't get proper sleep while on assignment.
  2. When have you hit your limit of felt the effects of sleep deprivation while on fires?
  3. Describe some fireline operations that you have seen adversely affected by sleep deprivation.

Waste products in the brain get cleaned out while we sleep utilizing the glymphatic system. If these waste products don’t get cleaned out, sleep pressure builds up.

  1. How do you feel when too much sleep pressure builds up in your head? How does that pressure affect performance and decision-making?
  2. How do you think the brain’s cleaning system is affected if you are exposed to excessive smoke, saw exhaust, pump exhaust, or dust and dirt while sleep deprived?



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