Study finds sleep disorders among police officers

December 20, 2011 2:47:32 PM PST
Sleep disorders affect millions of people in the United States and often are undiagnosed and untreated.

That can be especially detrimental to shift workers, including police officers.

A new study finds that sleep disorders are common among North American police officers.

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 the 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.

Sleep apnea, where one stops breathing in sleep, was the most common finding, affecting one in three in the study.

The researchers screened nearly five thousand police officer in the U.S. and Canada for sleep disorders. For two years, the researchers questioned the participants, having them evaluate themselves in terms of performance and safety practices. The officers reported problems such as attention lapses and greater rates of absenteeism.

The authors wrote, "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."

This study is also relevant for those workers who work changing shifts as police officer do. The study has just been released to the public and police officials and unions will find great interest in this. It's one of the largest studies to ever screen workers for sleep disorders. It's being published in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association.

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