New research shows that one third of police officers suffer from sleep disorders. This comes as no surprise given that police are the largest population of shift workers who must find ways to get used to unpredictable, ever-changing schedules. The study, done by Harvard Medical School researchers, collected data from 4,471 officers.
Shift workers (click here, also) typically have two hours less sleep than other workers, because they are often forced to rotate their shifts over a month’s time, and as a result, they have more problems with sleep disorders and health problems like diabetes, heart disease, and psychological issues. In this study, researchers found that 38.4 percent reported having a sleep disorder—sleep apnea being the most common (35.1 percent) and insomnia the second (6.8 percent).
The study brings to light the need for more sleep disorder screening and treatment programs in not only our police departments, but also all of our public health and safety units that employ mainly shift workers. (Or for that matter, any place of work that employs shift workers.) Imagine what this could mean for the well being of our society as a whole.
These sleep deprived officers would do well to treat their sleep disorders and explore ways of reducing the effects of their challenging schedules. For example, taking restorative naps—meaning a nap either 20-35 minutes in length or 90 minutes long—prior to the start of a odd shift can be very effective. Anything in the 35-90 minute range could actually make them sleepier!