Public Release:  Sleep disorders highly prevalent among police officers

American Academy of Sleep Medicine

WESTCHESTER, Ill. - Sleep disorders are common, costly and treatable, but often remain undiagnosed and untreated. Unrecognized sleep disorders adversely affect personal health and may lead to chronic sleep loss, which, in turn, increases the risk of accidents and injuries. These problems are exacerbated in shift workers such as police officers, who may experience chronic sleep loss due to their schedules. A sampling of police officers shows a high incidence of sleep disorders among the members of this profession, according to a research abstract that will be presented Tuesday at SLEEP 2007, the 21st Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS).

The study, authored by Shantha M.W. Rajaratnam, PhD, of Harvard Medical School, was based on the responses of 4,471 police officers to a self-report survey that included screening for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) alone or for OSA and insomnia, restless legs syndrome (RLS), shift work sleep disorder and narcolepsy with cataplexy.

The percentage of those who screened positive for any sleep disorder was 38.4 percent, including 35.1 percent for OSA, 6.8 percent for insomnia, 0.7 percent for RLS, two percent for shift work sleep disorder and 0.5 percent for narcolepsy. These individuals were referred to a sleep clinic for a formal evaluation.

"Based on these data, sleep disorders appear to be highly prevalent in the present sample of police officers," said Rajaratnam. "Sleep disorder screening and treatment programs may potentially improve police officer health, safety and productivity."

The amount of sleep a person gets affects his or her physical health, emotional well-being, mental abilities, productivity and performance. Recent studies associate lack of sleep with serious health problems such as an increased risk of depression, obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Experts recommend that adults get between seven and eight hours of sleep each night to maintain good health and optimum performance.

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Persons who think they might be suffering from a sleep disorder are encouraged to consult with their primary care physician, who will refer them to a sleep specialist.

The annual SLEEP meeting brings together an international body of 5,000 leading researchers and clinicians in the field of sleep medicine to present and discuss new findings and medical developments related to sleep and sleep disorders.

More than 1,000 research abstracts will be presented at the SLEEP meeting, a joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society. The four-day scientific meeting will bring to light new findings that enhance the understanding of the processes of sleep and aid the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders such as insomnia, narcolepsy and sleep apnea.

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