To Serve, to Protect, and Perchance to Sleep:  Police Officers and Sleep Disorders

We entrust police officers with our safety. We believe that they protect us from law-breakers. We assume they would act competently and fairly should we be victims of crime.  Sleep disorders undermine these core missions of police officers.

A recent study demonstrated the dramatic impact of sleep disorders among 4957 police officers.   One third screened positive for sleep apnea. About 28% reported excessive sleepiness.  One in four reported drowsy driving within the past month.  Let me put that frequency of drowsy driving in perspective: Of the approximately 700,000 cops in the US, about 175,000 drove sleepy in the past month.  You (and perhaps your children) surely shared a road with one of them (if you regularly drive).  Those cops who screened positive for any sleep disorder had higher rates of psychiatric disorders, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.  They were also more likely to make administrative errors, fall asleep while driving, make errors or safety violations because of fatigue, exhibit uncontrolled anger toward suspects, and miss work.

I’m not sure why so many cops have sleep disorders.  Stress, night shifts, and possibly obesity contribute.  Regardless of the reasons for sleep disorders in cops, they should accept that sleep disorders impair their performance and seek medical evaluation when they’re sleepy, can’t sleep, or snore loudly.  We as a society need to take better care of those who protect and serve us by screening cops for sleep disorders.