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Sun Dec 25, 2011, 09:09 PM

Warning! Your Police Officer's Sleep Disorder May Be Hazardous to Your Health [View all]

JAMA the Journal of the AMA has an article in its December 21, 2011 issue about sleep disorders among U.S. police officers. It is called "Sleep Disorders, Health, and Safety in Police Officers". Here is the link. Read it fast. I think JAMA makes these articles public for only a short time.


The authors of the above article administered surveys to about 5000 police officers from different parts of the country, to see how many were likely to have sleep disorders and how much these sleep disorders might interfere with their job performance.

One of the most surprising findings---40% tested positive for at least one sleep disorder. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) was the most common of these sleep disorders. For anyone not familiar with OSA, here is a link to my old DU journal.


Sleep apnea is a syndrome in which a person is unable to move air during sleep. I.e. he or she chokes or strangles, anywhere from a few times an hour up to every few minutes. The disturbed sleep, low oxygen and elevated catecholamines (stress hormones) can cause a variety of medical problems. Some of these include poor attention, temper flare ups and falling asleep at inappropriate times (like on the road). Sleep apnea is a major public health problem because it is so common (up to 16% of men have it), so underdiagnosed (less 20% of those men know they have it) and because an untreated sleep apnea sufferer drives like a drunk driver---a drunk driver who thinks he is in perfect control.

According to the JAMA article, police officers have a relatively high rate of sleep disorders. Despite the fact that most police officers have good insurance, many of them do not know that they have a sleep disorder and are not being treated. And---most worrisome from a public health perspective---these officers with untreated sleep disorders are more likely to fall asleep while driving, more likely to be involved in motor vehicle accidents at work and more likely to act in an angry manner towards the public. They also make more administrative errors and safety violations. They are more likely to become depressed or "burned out" than those without a sleep disorder.

Factors that increase the risk of a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea include male gender, increasing age and obesity.

How many police officers who react in an angry, inappropriate manner to protesters suffer from a sleep disorder? How many police involved in high speed chases that end in accidents have OSA? How many innocent folks have been shot or tased or struck by a sleep deprived officer?

The solution is simple. Since police officers are public servants, screen them all annually, refer those who test positive for formal sleep studies (that can be paid for by their insurance) and start the appropriate treatment. Previous studies show that once you start treating a sleep disorder, function usually returns to normal.

The major flaw of the JAMA article. A sleep survey was used and only a small number of participants where given formal sleep studies (the gold standard test) to confirm that the "positive" surveys indicated actual disease. However, screening surveys have proved reliable in general population studies, and the use of these would allow police departments to address this problem in a relatively cheap and easy way.

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Reply Warning! Your Police Officer's Sleep Disorder May Be Hazardous to Your Health [View all]
McCamy Taylor Dec 2011 OP
Brickbat Dec 2011 #1
CoffeeCat Dec 2011 #2
Skittles Dec 2011 #5
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REP Dec 2011 #7
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spinbaby Dec 2011 #10
mopinko Dec 2011 #3
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Fumesucker Dec 2011 #6
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Skip Intro Dec 2011 #13