Sleep Disorders Linked to Poor Health and Reduced Occupational Performance in Police Officers

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January 3, 2012

Sleep disorders affect about 50 – 70 million Americans. Most sleep disorders go undiagnosed or untreated. When untreated, sleep disorders have been associated with increased risk for injuries and accidents. They are also linked with additional physical and mental health issues.

In a study conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, researchers measured the impact of sleep disorders on police officer health, safety, and performance. The findings are published in the December 21, 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association .

 Over a period of two years, researchers gathered data from 4,957 police officers in North America. The police officers were categorized into two groups: Those who participated at an onsite police facility and those who participated online.

The onsite survey was performed at the Philadelphia Police Department and at the Massachusetts State Police Department. The onsite officers were screened for sleep disorders and surveyed about health and performance.

The online survey involved a sample of municipal, state, county, and other law enforcement officers from across North America. They were used to compare data that was collected from the two intensively sampled onsite municipal and state police departments. Follow ups were conducted over a period of two years.

The most common sleep disorder among the police officers was sleep apnea . It was estimated that 33 percent of the police officers screened had sleep apnea. Massachusetts State Police were at significantly lower risk for sleep apnea than the municipal or nationwide police officers. The researchers hypothesized that the comprehensive on-the-job physical fitness program may account for the lower rates of sleep apnea and obesity in this group.

 Moderate to severe insomnia affected six and a half percent, and 28.5 percent of police officers showed fatigue.