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Many Police Officers Battle Sleep Woes, Study Finds
Date:12/21/2011

By Mary Brophy Marcus
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Dec. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Sleep problems are common among police officers and are associated with more health issues and poorer performance on the job, a new study shows.

Researchers screened almost 5,000 police officers from the United States and Canada online or in person and found that 40 percent of them had a sleep disorder.

The most common problem, suffered by one-third of the officers, was obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when muscle tissue in the back of the throat relaxes and collapses, temporarily blocking the airway. It can recur dozens of times a night, interrupting sleep and resulting in daytime exhaustion.

Another 6.5 percent had insomnia, according to the study published in the Dec. 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"Sleep disorders are very prevalent in this group. We found one out of four officers shows excessive sleepiness," said study author Dr. Charles Czeisler, director of the sleep medicine division at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

Czeisler said he and his colleagues found that those who screened positive for a sleep disorder had a 58 percent increased risk of falling asleep while driving. In addition, they had a 76 percent increase in safety violations, a 23 percent greater risk of an occupational injury and a 21 percent increased risk of expressing uncontrolled anger toward a suspect or citizen.

Sleep-challenged officers also had a 39 percent greater risk of making a serious administrative error at work compared to those who did not. They were 26 percent more likely to experience absenteeism, had a 24 percent greater chance of receiving a citizen complaint against them and nearly double the risk of falling asleep during meetings.

The study also showed a 96 percent increased risk of falling asleep during a telephone call, which led Czeisler to recall a
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