I’ve always wondered about police officers—just like the rest of the population, many are generally overweight. A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that about 40% of police officers screened positive for at least one major sleep disorder. Sleep apnea was the most commonly found condition, at 34%. Insomnia and shift word disorder were the two other conditions seen. About 80% were overweight or obese. And 26% reported falling asleep while driving at least once or twice per month.
These findings are not too surprising, since police officers frequently work odd hours that include night shift and weekends. Their poor eating habits can contribute as well. We also know that poor sleep can promote weight gain. The irony is that police officers probably need to be outdoors, walking or driving around, since an indoor desk job will not be stimulating enough. The question is which comes first: poor sleep habits and lifestyles that lead to weight gain and sleep apnea, or anatomic predisposition to sleep apnea that leads to choosing these type of occupations that promote weight gain, which leads to sleep apnea? I’m sure that if you studied fire fighters, you’ll find similar results, and that you’ll agree with me that this is a potentially major public health issue.
Based on these findings, do you think mandatory screening for obstructive sleep apnea should be required on a periodic basis for all police officers?