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Sleep Deprivation: What Does It Mean for Public Safety Officers?

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2009
6 pages
Publication Series
This article examines the causes and effects of sleep deprivation for police officers and suggests ways that police managers and officers can address this issue.
Researchers have found that police officers have a much higher prevalence of sleep disorders than the general public. Research has shown that being awake for 19 hours produces impairments that are comparable to having a blood alcohol concentration of .05 percent, and being awake for 24 hours is comparable to having a blood alcohol concentration of approximately .10 percent. In order to reduce risks from impaired performance due to sleep deprivation, officers and their managers must work together in managing fatigue. Police managers should review policies that affect overtime, “moonlighting,” and the number of consecutive hours officers can work. Managers should keep shift rotation to a minimum and give officers adequate rest time. Managers should also give officers a voice in decisions related to their work hours and shift-scheduling. Increasing the amount of control and predictability over one’s use of time improves a host of psychological and physical characteristics. Police managers should assess the level of fatigue officers experience, the quality of their sleep, how tired they are while on the job, and their attitudes toward fatigue and work-hours issues. In addition, officers should receive adequate information about the importance of good sleep habits, the hazards associated with fatigue and shift work, and strategies for managing them. Individual officers should assume responsibility for staying physically fit, restricting their routine use of caffeine, and getting 7 or more hours of sleep every day. If regular sleep periods are insufficient, a nap should be taken before a shift. Chronic sleep problems warrant seeing a doctor who specializes in sleep medicine. 5 references, 9 notes, and appended outline of ways to avoid sleep deprivation

Date Published: March 1, 2009