Studies have shown that officers working rotating shifts sleep one to four hours less on average than those assigned to permanent shifts (Aveni, 1999). Some of these officers develop a long term sleep deficiency that can never be recovered. Officers that are sleep deprived are not only operating at an unsafe level, but have been found to have the same level of performance as someone with an alcohol impairment between 0.04% and 0.08% BAC and would be presumed to be legally unsafe to operate a motor vehicle (Aveni, 1999). Findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that performance in the areas of vigilance, attention, and other motors skills deteriorated to the point that sleep deprivation was comparable to that of alcohol consumption. Sleep deprivation and alcohol consumption had similar effects in regards to decreased reaction time, attention, and judgment. In addition, sleep deprivation increases job stress and the ability to cope with the daily pressures that officers must be able to process effectively. The impact of sleep deprivation can have a long lasting detrimental effect on officers leading to poor work performance, increased worker’s compensation claims, and is a contributing factor to the fact that police officers commit suicide at a much higher rate than national average as compared to the general population (Cowan, 2008).
ADDITIONAL MEDICAL PROBLEMS
Officers involved in the study released in 2011 (JAMA) were found to have increased cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and obesity. Other medical conditions included chronic fatigue and as well as sleep apnea. These officers also have increased stress from the family dynamic where there is strain from the shift work in the officers’ home life. These external pressures often carry over to the officers’ on duty performance. Untreated OSA is a recognized risk factor for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and stroke. In addition to the physical health impairments, studies have indicated that sleepiness as a result of shift work, including both shift rotation and overnight work, increased the risk of adverse mental health such as depression and an increased risk of burnout (JAMA, 2011, p. 11). An increased risk of burnout on the job could also be a factor in the increased number of citizen complaints against officers as detailed above. In addition, officers with burnout may be at an increased risk of making critical errors on duty relating directly to their safety and the overall safety of the community. Aveni (1999), noted that while the general life expectancy in the United States is approximately 73 years, the life expectancy of a United States law enforcement officer is only in the range of 53-66 years.
BENEFITS OF PERMANENT SHIFTS
Officers working fixed shifts have been shown to have increased productivity, better knowledge of their beat, and research shows that these officers have less fatigue and decreased sick leave usage in...