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Sleeping disorders affect work of police officers
December 20th, 2011
04:01 PM ET

Sleeping disorders affect work of police officers

A new study finds that many police officers might be better at their jobs, if they had more and better sleep.

Researchers screened officers for sleeping disorders and found that 40% had at least one disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea or insomnia.

Those with sleeping disorders were 51% more likely to fall asleep while driving, 63% more likely to violate safety protocols, 43% more likely to make administrative errors, and 22% more likely to be injured on the job, compared to officers reporting no sleeping disorders.

People had more bad things to say, too, about police officers who happen to sleep poorly, with citizens filing 35% more complaints against those with sleeping disorders.

Nearly half of all police officers surveyed for the study reported having fallen asleep at least one time while driving, while one-quarter of all officers said that this happens once or twice a month.

"It's an extraordinarily high number of sleeping disorders," says Dr. Charles Czeisler, Chief of the Division of Sleep Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital. "The main message is that sleep disorders are very prevalent in the police and I'm sure the general population is not far behind."

Obesity, explains Czeisler, is as essential to obstructive sleep apnea as location is to real estate, and that principle holds true in his study. About 34% of police officers reported being obese, and the same number suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, though some have one condition and not the other.

"The next step that we're going to do is an even larger sample," says Czeisler, "and find out if we can decrease these adverse consequences with screening, a treatment program, and education."

Officers with obstructive sleep apnea also showed higher rates of diabetes, depression, cardiovascular disease, emotional exhaustion, and anxiety disorders.

"We've learned a lot about sleep and sleep medicine. There's an explosion of science in this field," explains Dr. Michael Grandner, a researcher at the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology in the Division of Sleep Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania who is not associated with the study.

"But what this paper points out is that this isn't translating to the field. It'd be interesting to see the cost-benefit analysis of investing in the police officer's health."

The 4,957 study participants were recruited from the Philadelphia Police Department and Massachusetts State Police. Of the participants, 82% were men, 85% were white, and 79% were overweight or obese.


soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. imaguard

    This just in: Sleep disorders affect ALL kinds of work. Duh. The only exception is "mattress quality control specialist."

    December 20, 2011 at 19:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. al

    hopefully one day pills will be invented to make a person sleep for 7hrs and wake up right away, with no side effects and not addictive. that will help millions of people everywhere

    December 20, 2011 at 22:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. c s

    It has a lot more to do with trying to work a night schedule than anything else. Most humans are biologically not nocturnal. A few people are really night owls that are most comfortable working nights and sleeping days. Most police works some type of rotating schedule and can not adjust to sleeping during day and being awake at night. What is really scary is that a police officer driving at highway speeds and then falling asleep. At 60 mph, a car is traveling 88 feet per second. Now you have 5000 pound unguided missile on the highway at 2:00 AM. I would guess that many police single car accidents at night are really just the driver falling asleep. Of course the police officer will never admit to falling asleep because it would probably get him fired. Traffic accidents is the second leading cause of police officers being killed in the line of duty after being murdered. According to crime in america net, in 2009 47 officers were murdered while on duty and 46 died in accidents.

    December 21, 2011 at 00:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Thinquer

    WHY do people in critical jobs of responsiblity have to do rotating SHIFT work? Air traffic controllers, nurses, firefighters, police... sure recipe for disaster. Duh.

    December 21, 2011 at 01:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Myto Senseworth

    Changes in a human's biological clock is one of the causes. They need fixed shifts. I know when I travel a lot and change time zones arround the world, I find it hard to sleep and hard to stay awake.....I wonder how much was spent to study something the rest of us already know???

    December 21, 2011 at 09:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Myto Senseworth

    This was a waste of my reading time......

    December 21, 2011 at 09:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Katie

    What a dumb article... Police are people, people are affected by lack of sleep. Who ever wrote this article should be a toilet bowl cleaner for life.

    December 21, 2011 at 13:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. jojo

    POLICE OFFICERS LIE....IN COURT UNDER OATH...IT ISN'T HARD TO READ THE PAPERS AND SEE CURRENT AND FORMER POLICE OFFICERS WHO KILL, ROB...STEAL..RAPE...SELL DRUGS AND SO ON........

    A FEW BAD APPLES SHOULDN'T SPOIL THE BARREL......BUT....THEY DO...

    TOO BAD WHEN YOU CAN'T TRUST THE POLICE...

    December 21, 2011 at 14:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. jojo

    And im sure most police get PLENTY OF SLEEP ON THE NIGHT SHIFT....after a few donuts....

    December 21, 2011 at 14:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. jojo

    Got off jury duty cuz I tod the judge that, "I know several cops personaly and that they sometimes lie"..... The judge said to
    me, ........ "surely you don't think that all cops lie?"....I said, ......"All the cops that I know do."...lol... He dismissed me..lmao

    December 21, 2011 at 14:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Keirxi

      You sound like a real winner, buddy.

      December 21, 2011 at 20:17 | Report abuse |
    • IAB

      And you sound like a real cop. Don't lie..

      December 22, 2011 at 20:25 | Report abuse |
  11. long arm of the law

    http://www.nytimes.com/1994/07/19/nyregion/3-ex-officers-plead-guilty-in-fbi-sting.html

    NOTHING NEW ......BEEN GOIN ON FOR A LONG TIME.......AND WILL CONTINUE TO GO ON INTO THE FUTURE........

    WHILE A CRIME AGAINST A COP IS TAKEN SERIOUSLY......

    CRIMES COMMITTED BY COPS ARE TREATED LIKE ORDINARY CRIMES........ THEY ARE NOT ORDINARY, THEY ARE EVEN MORE DISGUSTING. AND DO HARM TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC.......BUT IM GLAD TO SEE THAT IT COMES AROUND. THANKS TO THE FEDS. AT LEAST THEY HAVE HONOR

    December 21, 2011 at 15:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Portland tony

    I think anybody who has constantly changing work hours is probably under more job related stress than your 9 to 5(er). To some it's a nightmare, to others it's just inconvenient. But being a cop, you have to find that comfort zone whenever you're working, Where, when, and with whom are they working. If somebody's shooting at you, you'll need answers.

    December 21, 2011 at 18:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Mr No It All

    Switching from night shift to day shift alternately would always make somebody numb: half asleep, half awake all day and fused that way – I had some police misconduct complaints myself and could not sleep so I would type out these intrusive thought trains into a book at night during the blocks of hours it was impossible to sleep. I ended up with a book for the loss of sleep and was able to catagorize and lose the source of sleeplessness

    December 21, 2011 at 23:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. CLARA

    What they need to do is outlaw the shifts that rotate every month from days to evening to nights...this is what is causing exhaustion on people. People can adapt better if the shifts do not change all the durn time.

    December 21, 2011 at 23:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. mike stanek

    Nurses work 12 hour nights like myself.730 pm to 8am been at it 27 years it screws you up not just cops.

    December 22, 2011 at 01:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Sandy

    I don't know how the situation is in the larger cities, but in the small municipalities in some areas, a large number of officers hold second jobs and even own a side business. The fact that they work changing shifts, and even when the shifts are stationary, makes them able to do this. Sleep seems to take a back seat to money.

    December 22, 2011 at 08:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. cops_are_jerks

    who cares about the police

    December 22, 2011 at 10:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. jenn

    This is so true. My husband was recently terminated from the position he held for 13 years (Sherriff dept) because he has obstructive right side sleep apnea and it has caused him to nod off 3 times last year. He worked 3rd(graveyard) shift. It's a real shame, and according to some quite illegal, but what can you really do.

    December 22, 2011 at 12:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • cops_are_jerks

      HA!

      December 22, 2011 at 16:56 | Report abuse |
    • IAB

      Sue the crap out of the department for wrongful termination due to a medical condition that can be treated. They should have at least made a reasonable accommodation for based on his disability.

      In New York City he would have gotten a disability retirement 85% of his pay, tax free for the rest of his life. Even if they find him running the NYC Marathon or Triathalon. LOL now say that cops are not crooks with a straight face. Good luck and get a good lawyer.

      December 22, 2011 at 20:12 | Report abuse |
    • IAB

      That is of of course assuming that the department doesn't LIE about the reason for his termination.

      December 22, 2011 at 20:19 | Report abuse |
  19. Jataka

    They made the choice to become cops. Deal with it.

    December 22, 2011 at 14:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. DCRed

    Maybe they have guilty consciences.

    December 22, 2011 at 19:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. IAB

    79%. Overweight or obese

    Enough said. LMFAO

    December 22, 2011 at 20:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. ken

    In reading the article, I think I saw that obese people can't sleep and have major health problems. So cops should be fired if they become obese? This applies to all occupations. Obese people should be fired. They can't sleep, they have too many health problems, and they can't concentrate at work. They hurt the medical insurance plan of their employer. Now isn't that obvious?

    December 22, 2011 at 23:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Love Sleep

    One word: Ambien. It'll put you right out and let you sleep at least 5 hrs uninterrupted and often 7 to 8 hrs with no problem. If you have sleep apnea, use a CPAP with the Ambien. Then you will have a restful night's sleep. Any profession..

    December 22, 2011 at 23:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Katie

    After seeing how my young son has been profiled by cops – excessively ticketed (2 of which were dismissed) and harassed by cops (dogs sniffing his car for drugs – there was none), I really don't have much sympathy. They should push back on the quotas. Maybe if they did, they could reclaim some of the lost respect.

    December 22, 2011 at 23:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. cyclobrown

    another excuse to be a bad cop

    December 23, 2011 at 00:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. drew

    Truth be told........

    December 23, 2011 at 11:57 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.