The man who brings you Today’s Tip from Lexipol, Gordon Graham, has long talked about the importance of sleep, and how sleep impacts our health, wellness, and professional lives. Please click on the quick Today’s Tip videos below to educate yourself on how sleep impacts our lives in law enforcement:
Update: These links may not work, so if you go to http://www.lexipol.com/todays-tip/, you can search for “sleep” to find these videos.
Some quick takeaways from Gordon Graham on strategies to help combat fatigue:
- Practice quiet time or meditation
- Reduce the intake of refined sugars and add more complex carbohydrates to your diet
- Keep electronics to a minimum in the bedroom
- Keep the bedroom cool and dark
- If issues are keeping you awake and thinking all night long, write them down in a journal next to your bed to unload them from your mind and allow it to relax
- Check your hormone, vitamin, and mineral levels
Sleep and PTSD
Sleep can be a precious commodity for those working within a law enforcement agency. Many studies have been done on sleep, and the general consensus is that the adult body needs somewhere between 7-9 hours of sleep. Studies have also linked proper sleep to building resiliency from PTSD. In her studies of PTSD in law enforcement, Karen Lansing finds sleep to be one of the major factors before and after a traumatic event.
The following passage was taken from an interview with Lansing, which can be found at http://www.lexipol.com/news/trauma-on-the-job/:
Lansing sees sleep as the root cause of PTSD for two reasons: First, lack of sleep can increase the chances that officers will make a tactical/perceptual mistake (which, in turn, can change a “normal” incident into a critical one), and second, merely being sleep deprived can reduce an officer’s chances of recovering normally from a traumatic event.
“If you just missed three nights of adequate sleep, you’re in trouble neurologically. Reactions slow down, micro sleep can set in without warning—which is one of the reasons more officers are killed in car collisions on-duty—and you’re less able to pick up on subtle cues,” Lansing says. “Research articulates that if you’re sleep deprived before the traumatic event, you’re more vulnerable to developing PTSD. With that problematic sleep pattern being established as normal, especially for those working graveyard shifts, the brain becomes inoperable in terms of self-maintenance.”
Unfortunately, Lansing says, most law enforcement leaders have little if any awareness of the sleep/PTSD connection. “We have never before had more complications involved in law enforcement than we do now,” she says. “We put officers out there and expect them to do the ‘least worst’ in the course of potentially lethal, rapidly unfolding events. Things can unfold faster than the brain is able to keep up with. We’re pushing officers into very dangerous terrain by not taking the sleep factor into serious account.”
Sleep Disorders in Law Enforcement
One study of 5000 police officers found the following:
- 40% of officers suffered a sleep disorder (compared to 15-20% for the general population)
- 34% suffered obstructive sleep apnea
- 46% reported falling asleep while driving
If you think you are experiencing sleep-related issues, contact your medical professional. If you have further questions or are in need of resources, please contact the Employee Wellness Unit.