Sleep Disorders, Work Shifts, and Officer Wellness
by Beth Pearsall for Lockdown – September 2012 Two recent studies examined the impact of sleep and work schedules on the health and safety of law enforcement officers. Police work is inherently risky. Law enforcement officers face the constant threat of being attacked, wounded or even killed when confronting suspects or han-dling other dangerous situations in the line of duty. And the risk of being injured during routine traffic stops or roadside emergencies is all too real.1 In fact, law enforcement officers have one of the highest rates of on-the-job injury and illness. But one of the greatest dangers to officers and their overall performance on the job is often overlooked — fatigue. Law enforcement officers work demanding schedules characterized by long hours, frequent night shifts and substantial overtime. Insufficient rest or irregular sleep patterns — coupled with the stress of the job — can lead to sleep deprivation and possibly sleep disorders. The result can be severe fatigue that degrades officers’ cognition, reaction time and alertness and impairs their ability to protect themselves and the communities they serve. So how common are sleep deprivation and sleep disorders among law enforcement? And what role do demanding work schedules play?
There is a small but growing body of research examining the effects of sleep disorders and shift schedules on police officer health, safety and performance. Two recently released studies funded by NIJ make important additions to this research effort. The first study examines sleep disorders among law enforcement officers, and the second explores the impact of shift length on officer wellness. The findings from both have critical implications for law enforcement officers and agencies across the nation. For the entire report go to: Pdf version: https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/238487.pdf