Sleep Disorders

sec_arr Introduction

Author: Edward Galaid, MD, MPH, FACOEM

Publication year: 2014



Sleep disorders are a heterogeneous group of medical conditions with varied etiologies. Circadian phase, number of hours awake, nightly sleep duration, genetic factors, and sleep inertia,1 affect vigilance, situational awareness, and executive functioning. In a survey of approximately 5,000 law enforcement officers (LEOs), 28.5% reported excessive sleepiness, and 26.1% reported falling asleep at least once per month while driving.2 The structure and content of this chapter are based upon a systematic review of the medical and law enforcement literature, the standard diagnostic criteria and nomenclature published in the second version of the International Classification of Sleep Disorders (ICSD-2),3 and standard texts4 (see Appendix A – Glossary, and Appendix B – Literature Search Method). The Task Group also incorporated the peer-reviewed literature, additional reports, and guidance pertaining to other occupational groups that are transferable to the physical and cognitive demands placed upon the LEO. Two examples are military personnel, particularly aviators, and commercial motor vehicle drivers.

There have been no studies that specifically examine how an untreated sleep disorder affects the LEO’s performance of essential job tasks (see Essential Job Tasks). However, based on a review of the literature pertaining to sleep disorders and impairment in other occupational settings, it is the Task Group’s consensus opinion that:

  • Certain untreated sleep disorders will likely affect the LEO’s ability to drive in routine and emergency situations, and his or her vigilance, situational awareness, and executive functioning.
  • The law enforcement agency may consider integrating screening for sleep problems into a workplace health promotion program.