Police Fatigue: Strategies for Managing Fatigue and Promoting Sleep Health

Police Fatigue: Strategies for Managing Fatigue and Promoting Sleep Health
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Module 1
Recorded on: 2021-07-08
Unit 1Slide Deck: Police Fatigue
Unit 2Transcript: Police Fatigue
Unit 3Workbook: Police Fatigue
Unit 4Recording: Police Fatigue

With the inherent nature of the law enforcement profession where officers are exposed to challenging conditions, traumatic circumstances, plus add the shift work into the equation, fatigue becomes inevitable. Numerous strategies are being effected to ensure the officers’ holistic health, but all of these aren’t as valuable without the most basic and foundational component of health and wellness – sleep.

Lois James is back on the Justice Clearinghouse to expound on the value of sleep when it comes to overcoming fatigue. Lois is an assistant professor in the Washington State University (WSU) College of Nursing and the Sleep and Performance Research Center. She’s internationally recognized for her work and research focused on bias, stress, sleep, and performance in “high stress” populations.

Specifics of her discussion are on:

  • The belief that not being able to stand the demands of a job in law enforcement equates to weakness and how this resulted in long-term adverse health outcomes to the population.
  • Statistics that exhibit the significantly less sleep those in law enforcement get versus the general public.
  • How sleep deprivation poses grave consequences and impacts day-to-day law enforcement work through:
    • Reduced perspective, understanding, and ability to self-monitor.
    • Impaired decision-making due to narrowed perception particularly during stressful situations.
    • Worsened mood and greater likelihood for anxiety, irritability, fearfulness, or hostility.
  • The similarities and differences between fatigue and alcohol impairment.
  • Analyzing how fatigue and sleep deprivation impacts specific aspects of the job.
    • As a causal factor for officer-involved vehicle collisions in fairly optimal driving conditions and even simulations.
    • Greater likelihood to demonstrate implicit bias, use force, and fire issued weapon.
    • Less likelihood to utilize de-escalation techniques.
  • The longer-term and cumulative effects of sleep deprivation which manifests as physical conditions, chronic illnesses, sleep disorders, and psychological conditions.
  • A rundown of the strategies to employ to prevent and counter the effects of sleep deprivation and fatigue.
    • Recognizing that there is most benefit to nutrition, fitness, and stress management measures for holistic health and wellness if it is backed by good quality sleep.
    • Understanding the science of sleep and how concepts like its phases and circadian rhythm can be maximized to significantly impact the quality of sleep.
    • Practicing sleep hygiene that ensures one gets the best quality of sleep by creating the ideal sleep routine, environment, and headspace.
    • Getting screened for sleep disorders and identifying tools and methods that can be used against these.
    • Learning the art of napping taking into account the length of the nap and the time of the day to best take it.
    • Monitoring one’s own fatigue and sleep levels and trends.
    • Implementing smart shift scheduling that considers providing enough time to rest in between shifts and science of sleep concepts.

Questions raised by the webinar participants are about:

  • The optimum number of hours to dedicate for sleeping and why some personalities advocate much shorter hours.
  • Catching up on sleep debt through saturation sleep.
  • Correlation between shift patterns, sleep opportunity, and citizen complaints.
  • How fatigue impacts concepts of emotional intelligence, implicit bias, and procedural justice.
  • Changing the mentality about rest and sleep in law enforcement.
  • How specific shifting schemes may lead to more sleep issues than others.
  • Studies supporting the benefits of on-duty napping.
  • Recommendations for restorative rooms and other similar efforts for agencies.
  • Whether Delta or the REM phase is more important.


Webinars with this Speaker:


Click here to view and register for other upcoming ASEBP webinars on the JCH Platform.


Resources and Handouts



Audience Comments

  • “The most valuable takeaway is understanding how sleep can impact performance of your job for not only you but coworkers and the public. A very interesting topic that we don’t hear a lot about!” — Winona
  • “It was very interesting to find out that napping promotes so many things for the workforce. I don’t see our agency leaning that way, but sure would be nice if they did as we work rotating on-call shifts and getting calls all throughout the night and then still having to be at work the next day on time is rough.” — Tammy
  • “Great Information and presenter seemed very knowledgeable. Would like to hear more on the topic.” — Patricia
  • “Always good to hear of ways to improve the work environment, assist and develop our employees. Thanks for the information.” — Michael
  • “It was much more in-depth than the usual “get some more sleep” mantra we hear. It contained a lot of good information and tips. Thank you.” — Kristine
  • “I think the most valuable thing I learned is that is not only okay but necessary to try and “make up” for lost sleep IE: after a long stretch if able – sleeping an entire day to “catch up.” — Kelly
  • “There is little research published on this topic, especially as it relates to shift length. It was nice to finally see some definitive conclusions come out regarding the negative impact of fatigue that is due to a lack of sleep, which is, in part, due to shift length.” — Lori
  • “Great topic. I learned a lot about how your body and brain react to the amount of sleep you have and need. I didn’t realize you need a longer nap. When you think about napping you think 30 minutes or so.  Overall I thought it was great.” — Lauren
  • “I was surprised by the BAC regarding hours of being awake, I was totally blown away. Please provide more training, It certainly helps those of us on shift work.” — Marian
  • “There was a lot of great info in this webinar. I guess the most significant for me was the statistics on how sleep deprivation negatively affects performance & also the benefits of the nap.” — Mary
  • “Dr. James is incredible. I really appreciate the research-based presentation and her explanations of why we need to do certain things. I certainly learned a lot today! I also really appreciate her work. I am sure it has saved lives.” — Brenda
  • “The presenter was a true subject matter expert.” — Deborah
  • “Excellent material that was logically presented by a well-spoken, enunciating speaker. Thank you!” — Corinna
  • “Outstanding presentation, Learned a lot of extremely important information, I’ll be implementing a few positive changes in my routines. Thanks so much!!!” — Celeste
  • “Great explanations of the types of sleep, how lack of and fatigue can impact judgment and sleep hygiene.” — Corinne



Additional Resources
2 years ago
After the Webinar: Police Fatigue. Q&A with Dr. Lois James
Webinar presenter Dr. Lois James answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Police […]
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