Are you that officer who shows up to work thinking you are “officer friendly”?  Ask your spouse or co-workers and they will inform you that you are actually “officer tired and cranky.”  Working long hours, different shifts and side jobs all while getting little or no sleep limits an officer’s performance drastically.

In our line of work officers need sleep.

I believe that many of us are, at times, “Officer tired and cranky”.  But we need to make time for sleep.  Make time for naps, our on-going schedules make it clear that effective sleeping and resting impact our physical and mental readiness.

 

IT’S NOT AS EASY AS IT LOOKS!

I know many officers who struggle in their daily tasks because they do not get enough sleep.   Sleep deprivation influences not only mental but also physical health and performance.  Lack of sleep is also associated with depression and mood disorders.

If you have become that moody officer, get some sleep and people will like you more.

 

Judging by sales of prescription and over-the-counter sleep medications, numerous people in our society (and on the job) rely on medications for sleep.

Unfortunately, some medications are highly addictive, yet none of these drugs produce natural sleep.

 

HOW DO ATHLETES HANDLE SLEEP?

 I came across a few articles about how athletes have become masters of sleep.  These athletes understand they must perform at high levels and cannot function properly under pressure without enough rest.  Sound familiar?

National Football player Tom Brady attributes much of his on-the-field success to his insistence on rest.  Brady told ESPN Magazine that “I have to do things differently” means going to bed well before people his age typically do.  Brady understands that without proper rest, he would find it nearly impossible to muster a winning mind set.

“The old school approach of toughing it out is completely bogus, not to mention counterproductive,” maintains Charles Czeisler, director of the division of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School. Czeisler, who is known around the National Basketball Association (NBA) as the “sleep doctor”, recommends a simple formula for maximizing elite athletic skills: MORE SLEEP!

It’s just not the area of sports, Warren Buffet, one of the world’s most successful investors is similarly greedy about his sleep.  He famously, told investors, “Why don’t you go home and get a good night’s rest, and we’ll meet again tomorrow,” after an important meeting in the 1990s. 

 An expert on this topic is Bryan Vila, PhD. Bryan pioneered the study of police fatigue, in his book called, ‘Tired Cops: The Importance of Managing Police Fatigue,’ (2000).  Bryan is a professor of criminal justice and criminology at Washington State University. His research focuses on the impact of sleep-related fatigue, shift work and long work hours on the safety, health and performance of police officers.

Bryan stated in a Ted Talk that “As you work officers harder, you wear them out, more officers get sick and more of them burnout.  You then have fewer bodies to put out on the street.” Make sense to you?

Bryan served as a law enforcement officer for 17 years—including nine years as a street cop and supervisor with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Additionally, he spent six years as a police chief helping the emerging nations of Micronesia develop stable and culturally-appropriate law enforcement agencies, and two years as a federal law enforcement officer in Washington, D.C.

Over the long-term, sleep disruption effects your immune system.  Lack of sleep suppresses immune system performance.  This means officers disproportionally gets cancer, cardiovascular deceases, metabolic disorders as well as psychological disorders.

 

Forget bad guys and gunfire: several police studies done at the Center for Sleep Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York confirmed that officers’ shift work contributes to undiagnosed and untreated sleep problems and excessive fatigue.

 

WHAT DO THE DOCTORS SAY?

Maybe it’s time for you to seek medical help.  Some eighteen million Americans have sleep apnea, a disorder in which the airway becomes blocked. The result is that its sufferers snore loudly and stop breathing for short periods.  Those who suffer from sleep apnea feel drowsy from poor sleep, which, in turn, raises their blood pressure to dangerously high levels.

A good night’s sleep, practiced regularly will help improve your mental and physical state and help get you recharged.  Sleep also helps you to burn calories.  While you sleep, if everything is in order, you are likely to burn between fifty and one hundred calories an hour.

Be consistent with your bedtime routines. Getting to bed at the same time each night trains your body for a consistent melatonin release. We never say, “This person is a great worker because he is drunk all the time,” yet we continue to celebrate people who sacrifice sleep for work.

 

CONCLUSION

Police departments in the United States have established comprehensive shift, work hour, and fatigue management policies which are detrimental the health of their officers.

They do this despite the well understood, long-standing, and profound influences that round-the-clock schedules have on worker health, safety, performance, job satisfaction, and family life.  The lesson: try harder to get more sleep.

It just might be that simple.  

 At the end of the day, it’s all about saving just ONE life.

AMERICA

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