How to survive your police career

The Sleeping Policeman Or, Actually, Not Sleeping Policeman.

The Sleeping Policeman Or, Actually, Not Sleeping Policeman.

A friend at mine at work always likes to remind me of the time I was so knackered at the end of a night shift that I mistook a stapler for the computer mouse and so became increasingly angry about not being able to get the cursor to move around the screen whilst trying to show her something.

Good sleep is just so fundamental a principle and yet how many officers do we know claim that they get sufficient? Think about how corrosive that lack of sleep is to us and our families. We all know how ratty we can get through lack of sleep, the way we end up saying things in front of our loved ones or acting in that unreasonable way which we regret later. We can be such jerks can’t we when we’re knackered, acting out like idiots through nothing more than becoming overtired; if we were small children we would be sent to bed. I have come to believe that inadequate sleep (and the behaviour it causes) over a long period of time destroys as many police officer marriages as those usual much discussed culprits of stress and trauma. We also know how our mates on the team tend to progressively lose their tempers with each other (not to mention the public) the further into that series of Nights or Earlies we go. BUT this rattiness, unfortunate and uncomfortable though it is, is only the tip of the iceberg – it’s the underlining lack of sleep that’s positively dangerous to our health and could well take years off our lives, and the quality of it, if we don’t take steps to positively address the problem. Let’s cheer ourselves up by considering an array of horrible health conditions associated with inadequate sleep.

Obesity in that it can result over time in the body altering levels of the hormones ghrelin and leptin which are linked to a feeling of continuous hunger and subsequent overeating. Oh good.

Type 2 diabetes. Some research now speculates that routine sleep deprivation might prove to be as relevant as insufficient exercise or inappropriate diet in terms of developing type 2 diabetes, seemingly as a result of changes in the glucose metabolism of the individual.

Heart disease. Oh yes. Research indicates that the less sleep you get on average, the higher your heart rate and the higher the levels of certain chemicals which are believed to put strain on the heart. Not to mention the associated …

Hypertension. Our old mate – got yourself a stress ball yet?

Shift-work sleep disorder. Rotten. If you want to have even more sleepless nights then look this beauty up on the internet. The sufferer, having a working pattern which results in them sleeping at non-standard times, constantly feels tired but then finds it hard to sleep when they do have the opportunity. They feel the need constantly to doze, often drop-off without meaning to, demonstrate reduced mental dexterity than they would normally, are more likely to suffer accidents and are pretty irritable … oh grief – THIS IS ME! Their symptoms coincide, strangely enough, with working rotating shifts.

And, oh yeah, you are also at increased risk of:

A disruption in your immune system which in turn make you more susceptible to infections.

Anxiety and depression.

Issues with fertility … and general lower libidos “… I’m tired …!”

So How Much Sleep Should I Be Getting?

Ideally, an adult needs somewhere in the region of seven to nine hours of sleep in every twenty four hour period. I know Margaret Thatcher managed to lead the country whilst winning foreign wars on the back-end of, it’s reputed, only four and realise also that there’s at least one Bobby on every section who seems to thrive on not much more than that and always says how they don’t bother at all with sleeping after their last Night Duty but the reality is that surviving on insufficient sleep is exactly that – surviving; it will catch up with you. It’s also interesting to speculate whether the dementia that Maggie suffered in later life was linked to her inadequate sleep over many years – I suspect that it didn’t help – or just what the memory / reasoning ability of your sleep surviving mate will be as they grow older.

In the book we discuss various strategies that police and staff can use for getting that sleep we need but, firstly, why not monitor for a month the amount that you are getting. Click on the link below and print off our sleep monitoring sheet – go on, scare yourself!

The Sleep Diary. Let’s See How Much Sleep You Actually Get Over A Month!

Feel free to cut and paste the table below in order to monitor just how much sleep you’re managing over a month whilst working those wonderful rotating shifts. I’ve left enough space in the third column for you also to keep a running total if your maths is up to it (all that complicated 60 minutes in an hour and then divided by number of days stuff … beyond me if I’m honest. Alternatively, calculate in minutes and then divide by sixty at the end of the month).


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