Sleep Disorders Tied to Adverse Health Outcomes for Police

Higher rate of errors or safety violations, falling asleep while driving, adverse work outcomes

TUESDAY, Dec. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Sleep disorders are common among police officers and are associated with adverse health, safety, and performance outcomes, according to a study published in the Dec. 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Shantha M.W. Rajaratnam, Ph.D., from the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and colleagues investigated the associations between sleep disorders and self-reported health, safety, and performance outcomes in police officers. Between July 2005 and December 2007, data were collected for 4,957 North American police officers participating in online or on-site screening, and from 3,545 officers from monthly follow-up surveys. Comorbid health conditions, and performance and safety outcomes were measured.

The investigators found that 40.4 percent of the 4,957 officers screened positive for at-least one sleep disorder. Of the total cohort, 33.6, 6.5, and 5.4 percent screened positive for obstructive sleep apnea, moderate to severe insomnia, and shift work disorder, respectively; and 26.1 percent reported falling asleep while driving at least once a month. There was an increased prevalence of physical and mental health conditions seen in participants who screened positive for sleep disorders. In the analysis of monthly follow-up surveys, those who screened positive for a sleep disorder had a significantly higher rate of serious administrative errors and making errors or safety violations due to fatigue. In addition, they were more likely to fall asleep while driving and exhibit other adverse work-related outcomes (including uncontrolled anger toward suspects, absenteeism, and falling asleep during meetings) versus those without a sleep disorder.

"Further research is needed to determine whether sleep disorder prevention, screening, and treatment programs in occupational settings will reduce these risks," the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical and sleep industries as well as serving as expert witnesses in trials pertaining to sleep, circadian rhythms, and work hours. Two of the study authors hold patents in the field of sleep and circadian rhythms.

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