Sleep disorders endanger law-enforcement officers

 
By Tom Nordlie • Published: March 7th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat
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Being a law-enforcement officer is dangerous.

There’s always the chance of a shoot-out, fight or traffic stop gone wrong.

But another job-related hazard lurks in a comfy bed. There’s actually a high incidence of sleep disorders among law-enforcement officers.

That’s the finding of a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study included almost 5,000 police officers who had been on the job for an average of 13 years.

Researchers asked the officers to provide information about their general health and previously diagnosed problems.

The scientists also asked participants about their experiences with sleep disorders, including apnea, insomnia, restless leg syndrome and narcolepsy.

The results showed that about 40 percent of the officers tested positive for at least one sleep disorder. Most of them had not been diagnosed with these problems before.

Perhaps the most troubling result was that one-fourth of the officers reported that they fell asleep while driving at least once a month. That could help explain why more law-enforcement officers are killed by accidents than felony crimes.

Part of the problem is law enforcement officers frequently work long hours and nighttime shifts. Those circumstances can lead to fatigue and impaired performance.

Over time, sleep disorders can increase the risk of depression, job burnout and even suicide.

Experts say police departments can help reduce some of these problems by adjusting schedules and keeping a police officer’s need for sleep in mind. Also, more research is needed to find ways to help tackle sleep disorders in this Important group of people.

We trust law-enforcement officers to keep our communities safe. So it’s paramount that they remain in good health while they watch over the rest of us.