December 23, 2011
Science Daily/JAMA and Archives Journals
A survey of police officers indicated that about 40 percent have a sleep disorder, which was associated with an increased risk of adverse health, safety and performance outcomes, according to a study in the December 21 issue of JAMA.
Sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia, and shift work disorder, affect 50 to 70 million U.S. residents. Most are undiagnosed and remain untreated. "Police officers frequently work extended shifts and long work weeks, which in other occupations are associated with increased risk of errors, unintended injuries, and motor vehicle crashes. According to data through the year 2003, more officers are killed by unintended adverse events than during the commission of felonies. It has been hypothesized that fatigue- likely due to reduced duration and quality of sleep and untreated sleep disorders-may play an important role in police officer unintentional injuries and fatalities. To date, the effect of sleep disorders on police officer health, safety, and performance has not been systematically investigated," the authors write.
The researchers also found that 28.5 percent of participants had screening scores that indicated that they experienced excessive sleepiness. Of the survey respondents, 45.9 percent reported having nodded off or fallen asleep while driving; 56.9 percent of these reported falling asleep while driving at least 1 to 2 times a month; and 307 (13.5 percent, representing 6.2 percent of the total group) reported falling asleep while driving at least 1 to 2 times a week.
Compared to those who screened negative, participants who screened positive for any sleep disorder were more likely to report making important administrative errors; falling asleep while driving; making errors or committing safety violations due to fatigue; having uncontrolled anger toward a citizen or suspect; incurring citizen complaints; having absenteeism; or falling asleep during meetings.
"In conclusion, a large proportion of police officers in our sample showed a positive sleep disorder screening result, which was associated with adverse health, safety, and performance outcomes. Further research is needed to determine whether sleep disorder prevention, screening, and treatment programs in occupational settings will reduce these risks," the authors write.