The Impact of Rotating Shift Work on Police Officers

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Studies have shown that officers working rotating shifts sleep one to four hours less on average than those assigned to permanent shifts (Aveni, 1999). Some of these officers develop a long term sleep deficiency that can never be recovered. Officers that are sleep deprived are not only operating at an unsafe level, but have been found to have the same level of performance as someone with an alcohol impairment between 0.04% and 0.08% BAC and would be presumed to be legally unsafe to operate a motor vehicle (Aveni, 1999). Findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that performance in the areas of vigilance, attention, and other motors skills deteriorated to the point that sleep deprivation was comparable to that of alcohol consumption. Sleep deprivation and alcohol consumption had similar effects in regards to decreased reaction time, attention, and judgment. In addition, sleep deprivation increases job stress and the ability to cope with the daily pressures that officers must be able to process effectively. The impact of sleep deprivation can have a long lasting detrimental effect on officers leading to poor work performance, increased worker’s compensation claims, and is a contributing factor to the fact that police officers commit suicide at a much higher rate than national average as compared to the general population (Cowan, 2008).

Officers involved in the study released in 2011 (JAMA) were found to have increased cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and obesity. Other medical conditions included chronic fatigue and as well as sleep apnea. These officers also have increased stress from the family dynamic where there is strain from the shift work in the officers...

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Vila, B., Kenney, D., Morrison, G. B., and Reuland, M. (2000, August 28). Evaluating the Effects of Fatigue On Police Patrol Officers: Final Report. U.S. Department of Justice. Retrieved on December 7, 2013 from
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