At Risk Industries for Sleep Disorders

Here is a video of Dr Czeisler summarizing the results of the Sleep Disorders, Health, and Safety in Police Officers study conducted by JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, and published in the journal December 20, 2011.

At risk industries also include, in my opinion, any that involve sleep deprivation, shift work, stress, observing traumatic events, long work hours, jobs where people’s lives depend on your accuracy, etc.

Examples of at-risk industries, in my opinion, include:

  • transport industry generally
  • trucking industry
  • air traffic controllers
  • nurses
  • doctors
  • hospital workers
  • emergency workers, helicopter pilots, etc
  • emergency medical technicians
  • the military
  • police (pretty obvious now)
  • security guards and services
  • website security workers
  • government special branches (security, etc)
  • ambulance drivers and administration
  • cleaners working night shifts, etc

Here are some of the results of the study, which included 4,957 participants from the United States and Canada between July 2005 and December 2007.

  1. 40.4 percent screened positive for at least 1 sleep disorder
  2. 28.5 percent had screening scores that indicated they experienced excessive sleepiness.
  3. Of the total 4,957 survey respondents 2276 or 45.9 percent reported having nodded off or fallen asleep while driving, 1,294  (56.9 percent of these, 26.1% of the total cohort)  reporting falling asleep while driving at least 1 to 2 times a month, and 307 (13.5 percent of them or 6.2 percent of the total group) reported falling asleep while driving 1 to 2 times a week!  Now that is scary.
  4. 33.6 percent screened positive for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) – the most common disorder
  5. 6.5 percent moderate to severe insomnia
  6. 5.4 percent shift work disorder (14.5 percent who worked the night shift).

Positive screening of any sleep disorder was, not surprisingly, associated with increased risk of self-reported health and safety related outcomes such as

  • 10.7 percent with a sleep disorder reported having depression, compared with 4.4 percent who did not screen positive to a sleep disorder
  • 34.1 percent (of the positive to sleep disorder group) burnout/emotional exhaustion compared with 17.9 percent in the no-sleep-disorder group.

Positive OSA screening was associated with a diagnosis of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and high caffeine consumption.

Participants that screened as having a sleep disorder problem were more likely to report making important administrative errors; falling asleep while driving; making errors or committing safety violations due to fatigue; having uncontrolled anger toward a citizen or suspect; incurring citizen complaints; absenteeism; falling asleep during meetings.

According to data through the year 2003, more officers are killed unintended adverse events than during the commission of felonies.  It has been hypothesized that fatigue might be a significant factor in those ‘unintended adverse events’.

That wouldn’t surprise me at all!

The authors summarize by saying that “further research is needed to determine whether sleep disorder prevention, screening, and treatment programs in occupational settings will reduce these risks”.

A pretty important step to move forward I’d say.

Source:  JAMA and Archives Journals (2011, December 20). Sleep disorders common among police officers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 23, 2012, from­ /releases/2011/12/111220172618.htm

I often get asked by people about shift work and how to manage it in order to get a better nights sleep.  It’s a tricky one because no-one wants to hear that shift work is not something that I recommend at all!  That is usually the answer they don’t want to hear.

Couple that with stressful, sometimes traumatic and violent situations – these careers are a very serious contribution to society.

Other studies show other adverse results for night-shift officers including higher rates of metabolic syndrome, hypertension and glucose intolerance (an indication of diabetes), etc.

Sleep debt has been shown to have harmful impact on carbohydrate metabolism and endocrine function, which could contribute to metabolic disorders.

Source:  University at Buffalo (2009, November 17). Night beat, overtime and a disrupted sleep pattern can harm officers’ health. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 23, 2012, from­ /releases/2009/11/091117161120.htm

Hmmm – its a big issue!

Best regards