Feeling tired isn’t the only bad result of too few Zzzzzzzzs – why we need to sort out shift patterns

21 Aug


The recent results of our member survey on shifts demonsrate the adverse effect shift working can have on a cop’s health. We have previously blogged about this.

You can also see two good blogs at Bankside Babble

We have also previously raised the issue of driver fatigue. We would urge all police officers and police staff in the 4 Yorkshire forces to contribute to the debate and our undertstanding of the problem and how to tackle it by completing this important survey.

In a world where 20% cuts to policing has been accepted by some it is imperative we understand the consequences of that and its impact on the health, safety and welfare of the remaining police officers and police staff and their effective deployment.

We know that sleep deprived cops put the public at risk.

The Force Science Institute has recently published details of negative evidence about sleep deprivation.

University of Iowa researchers report that if you’re averaging less than six hours sleep a night, you’re more susceptible to chronic fatigue and high-risk health problems, including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Studying 85 male officers from three police agencies in eastern Iowa, they found that working evening or night shifts leaves you 14 times less likely to get restful sleep and more likely to draw back-to-back shifts, worsening your sleep deficit. The study team urges new approaches to “break the cascade of poor sleep for police officers” in the interest of their personal health and public safety. Among suggestions: change the time of early-morning court appearances for night-shift officers to better assure adequate rest.

Shift work has long been known to disrupt circadian rhythm, sleep, and proper work-life balance. Now an analysis of studies by Canadian, Norwegian, and Swedish researchers pinpoints some of the negative specifics.


According to a report in the British Medical Journal, shift work–defined as any schedule other than a regular daytime duty tour–is linked to a 23% increased risk of heart attack, a 24% increased risk of some type of “coronary event,” and a 5% increased risk of stroke.

A 10-person research team analyzed the collective results of 34 studies of the “epidemiology of shift work and vascular events,” involving more than 2,000,000 workers, to reach these conclusions.

In an interview, one of the researchers, associate professor Dan Hackam of Western University in Ontario, noted that shift workers tend to be more prone to sleeping and eating badly. “Night shift workers are up all the time and they don’t have a defined rest period,” he said. “They are in a state of perpetual nervous system activation, which is bad” for various health factors.

Jane White, an occupational safety and health researcher quoted in a BBC News report on the study, recommended “avoiding permanent night shifts, limiting shifts to a maximum of 12 hours, and ensuring a minimum of two full nights’ sleep between day and night shifts” as “simple, practical” means of helping to counteract shift-work effects.

Two other studies–one from Columbia University, the other from the University of California-Berkeley–report that the brain is more attracted to unhealthy junk foods when sleep-deprived.

Says one of the Columbia researchers, Dr. Marie-Pierre St-Onge, “Under restricted sleep, individuals will find unhealthy foods highly salient and rewarding, which may lead to greater consumption of those foods.” Participants in that study “ate more overall and consumed more fat after a period of sleep restriction compared to regular sleep.”

The lead researcher in the Berkeley study, Dr. Stephanie Greer, a doctoral student in neuroscience, says that sleep loss “significantly impair[s] brain activity in the frontal lobe, a region critical for controlling behavior and making complex choices, such as the selection of food to eat.” Deprived of sleep, the brain seems to fail to “integrate all the different signals that help us normally make wise choices about what we should eat.”

We look forward to working with the force to see how it can take onboard this research and the results of our member survey on shifts to develop a shift pattern that works for the public AND cops and their families AND the force.



Posted by on August 21, 2012 in Uncategorized


2 responses to “Feeling tired isn’t the only bad result of too few Zzzzzzzzs – why we need to sort out shift patterns

  1. Martin Sykes

    August 22, 2012 at 6:59 am

    Well WYP didn’t take any notice of any research when looking at shifts for custody and they didn’t listen to the staffs views. Just did what the wanted all along.

  2. Dave Hasney

    August 25, 2012 at 9:39 am

    I’ve also written on the subject in my blog and tried to highlight the impacts and dangers involved in shift working. It’s a topic poorly understood by those who have no experience of working anything other than ‘normal’ office hours.

    Road Safety & Sleeping Policemen –

    Are you a killer manager –


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