Background: We examined the relation of sleep disturbance and arousal to work performance, mental and physical health, and day-to-day functioning in Florida Department of Health (FDOH) employees 9 months after the 2004 Florida hurricane season.
Methods: FDOH employees were contacted via e-mail 9 months after the 2004 hurricanes. Participants (N = 2249) completed electronic questionnaires including measures of sleep disturbance, arousal, work performance, physical health, mental health, day-to-day function, hurricane injury, and work demand.
Results: More than 18% of FDOH employees reported ≥25% reduced work performance and 11% to 15.3% reported ≥7 “bad” mental or physical health days in the past month. Sleep disturbance and elevated arousal were strongly associated with impaired work performance (odds ratios [ORs] 3.33 and 3.34, respectively), “bad” mental health (ORs 3.01 and 3.64), “bad” physical health (ORs 3.21 and 2.01), and limited day-to-day function (ORs 4.71 and 2.32), even after adjusting for sex, race, age, education, and marital status.
Conclusions: Among public health workers exposed to the 2004 hurricanes, sleep disturbance and arousal were associated with personal and work impairment. Future research should continue to examine the effect of repeated exposure to disasters in first responders.
(Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2010;4:S55-S62)