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Work And Sleep

July 23 2012 - Research from the University of Iowa has shown that police officers sleeping less than six hours per night are more susceptible to chronic fatigue and health problems, including:

  • being overweight or obese
  • diabetes
  • heart disease

85 male police officers aged between 22 and 63 years old from three eastern Iowa police departments were surveyed for the study. They were equally divided between officers working day shifts and those working evening or night shifts. On average, they worked 46 hours per week. They were questioned on levels of stress and fatigue, and height, weight, and C-reactive protein levels (marking inflammation levels in the blood) were measured.

Police officers working on evening or night shifts were more likely to get fewer than six hours of sleep. And those who slept less than six hours were twice as likely to experience poor sleep quality. The researchers argue that finding is important, since poor quality sleep may lead to "vital exhaustion," or chronic fatigue. This can trigger additional health problems.

The researchers also found that police officers working evening or night shifts were 14 times more likely to get less restful sleep than those on the day-shift. They were also more likely to work back-to-back shifts - increasing their sleep deficit.

According to lead author Sandra Ramey, assistant professor in the College of Nursing at the UI:

"This study further confirmed the impact of shift work on law enforcement officers and the importance of sleep as a modifiable risk factor for police. The good news is this is correctable. There are approaches we can take to break the cascade of poor sleep for police officers."

"The effect of work shift and sleep duration on various aspects of police officers' health" was published in the May edition ofWorkplace Health & Safety. Sandra Ramey of the University of Iowa, M. Kathleen Clark, Yelena Perhounkova, and Hui-Chen Tseng from the UI College of Nursing were co-authors. Laura Budde, from Mercy Hospital in Iowa City, and Mikyung Moon, from Keimyung University in South Korea, were contributing authors on the paper.

Working time and sleep

Research from the University of Pennsylvania published in SLEEP in 2007 found that work time is the largest influence on how long an individual sleeps on both work and leisure days. The more hours worked the less sleep achieved.

Dr Mathias Basner analyzed a telephone survey of 47 731 respondents between 2003 and 2005 to the American Time Use Survey (a continuous study sponsored by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau). The survey asked people how they had spent their time in the 24 hours up to 4.00am on the day interviewed.

Analysis revealed that the majority of waking activities were inversely related to sleep time. Compared to the average sleeper, respondents who slept up to 4.5 hours worked an average of 93 minutes more on weekdays and 118 minutes more on weekends and those who slept a minimum of 11.5 hours worked an average of 143 minutes less on weekdays and 71 minutes less on weekends. The report highlights expert recommendations that adults get seven-to-eight hours of sleep a night.

Mathias Basner said:

"These cross-sectional results in a nationally representative sample suggest that compensated work time is the most potent determinant of sleep time, in which case work time should be considered an important factor when evaluating the relationship between sleep time and morbidity and mortality."

Another key finding was that travel time (including commute to work) on both weekdays and weekends unexpectedly proved to be the second most significant factor after work time. The author suggests further research is indicated into how sleep time is affected by earlier starts and/or later returns as people travel longer distances or cope with inadequate transport infrastructure and traffic congestion. In addition little is known about the impact of non-commute travel on sleep time.

The study found that there was a moderate relationship between short sleep and time spent on socializing, relaxing and leisure. Respondents in this category also spent more time on education and household activities and those with very short sleep times spent more time watching TV. Waking activities decreased with increasing sleep time with the exception of watching TV.

The study found little difference between work and non-work days except that compared to respondents with average sleep times, short sleepers spent less time watching TV on weekends, and long sleepers spent less time on socializing, relaxing and leisure activities. The balance between sleep time and waking activities was influenced by age and gender. Work time was maximal for respondents aged 45-54 years; sleep time increased for younger and older age groups.

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