Although it isn’t often discussed, fatigue can be an issue for law enforcement officers.
Police officer fatigue can have sobering consequences. Among other things, fatigue impairs your mental and physical ability, limits job performance, damages your health, and exposes you to greater risk of vehicle accidents and accidental injuries. It can also make it more difficult to deal with community members and other law enforcement agencies.
The most obvious cause of fatigue is a lack of sleep. In one study, 53% of officers surveyed reported an average of 6.5 hours or less of sleep a night. Despite this lack of sleep, they often worked over 1,000 hours of overtime, including double and triple shifts and even second jobs.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get at least 7 hours of sleep each night. Not sleeping for 17 hours impair a person’s motor skills to an equivalent to having an alcohol toxicity of 0.05 percent.
Fatigue also has a detrimental connection on officer’s heath. A study over a two year period suggested that sleep disorders not only affected a worker’s alertness and mood but were linked to serious health problems such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
A second cause of officer fatigue is poor exercise habits or a lack of exercise. It is difficult to find time to add exercise into our daily routines. However, sedentary adults who engage in as little of 20 minutes of aerobic exercise three days a week reported feeling more energized, less fatigues and felt an approximately 20% energy increase overall.
The first phase of reduced police officer fatigue is awareness of the issue. Training supervisors to recognize symptoms of fatigue and providing resources to officers to better manage their health, including getting adequate sleep and exercise, can help police officers’ overall well-being.
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