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Work-Linked Sleep Loss May Harm Police Officers' Health

FRIDAY, July 20 (HealthDay News) -- Police officers who get less than six hours of sleep per day are at increased risk for chronic fatigue and health problems such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease, a new study finds.

The University of Iowa researchers also found that officers working the evening or night shifts were 14 times less likely to get restful sleep than those on the day shift. These officers also had to work more back-to-back shifts, which added to their sleep deficit.

The findings are important because they show that getting less than six hours of sleep could affect officers' ability to do their jobs, resulting in decreased public safety, the study authors said in a university news release. And an increased risk of health problems among officers could affect staffing and lead to higher costs for taxpayers.

The study, which included 85 male police officers aged 22 to 63 at three departments in eastern Iowa, was published in a recent issue of the journal Workplace Health & Safety.

"This study further confirmed the impact of shift work on law enforcement officers and the importance of sleep as a modifiable risk factor for police," lead author Sandra Ramey, assistant professor in the College of Nursing, said in the news release. "The good news is, this is correctable. There are approaches we can take to break the cascade of poor sleep for police officers."

Officers should be encouraged to get seven to eight hours of sleep per day, for example, and morning court times should be changed for officers who just worked an evening or night shift.

This study adds to previous research showing a possible link between sleep deprivation and chronic fatigue and health problems in police officers, the researchers said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about sleep.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of Iowa, news release, July 18, 2012

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