"Consistent with a multitude of other studies on sleep disorders, the officers with these conditions had higher rates of cardiovascular disease, as well as diabetes, hypertension and poor job performance," said Dr. Stanley Wang, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the Heart Hospital of Austin in Austin, Texas. "This study highlights the startling need to raise awareness of sleep disorders so we can get these people treated and try to reduce their risk of heart disease while improving their job performance. This is true not only for police officers, but for the population in general."
Past research suggests police officers are not the only ones for whom sleep deprivation may risk public safety. Shift work for physicians, truck drivers and pilots has been reviewed and published in medical literature. Work restrictions and duty hours are in effect in some professional practices.
"Awareness in general is important, whether this is with workers in public safety, transportation, oil or chemical plants, manufacturing," said Dr. James Herdegen, medical director of the Sleep Science Center at The University of Illinois.
Herdegen said better scheduling may go a long way to avoiding dangerous situations. "Sleep extension and optimization of shift work schedules in public health workers might be a simple, readily addressable intervention for some of the described sleep disorders."
And Wang said the new study may be a crucial step in addressing the sleep problems many police officers face.
"It is critically important that we continue to learn more and, at the same time, raise awareness so that these people can be evaluated and treated."