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Avon & Somerset Police Federation

Sleep deprivation just adding to the angst and anxiety of being a police officer

26 July 2021

Police officers are struggling with lack of sleep with short notice shift changes adding to their angst and anxiety, Avon and Somerset Police Federation has said.
The second national Policing Wellbeing Survey found that 40% of police officers are getting less than six hours’ sleep a night. As well as the poor sleep levels, 29.2% of police officers who responded indicated that they experienced extremely high levels of fatigue.
Tony Henley, Secretary of Avon and Somerset Police Federation, said: “As a shift worker, your body falls out of the normal Circadian rhythms, and this can cause sleep problems.”
“Lack of sleep is one thing that can lead to stress, along with the demands of the job itself. When shifts are changed under short notice, this stress can rise. The increased demand on frontline officers is adding to the stress, , anxiety from lack of sleep, and if it continues you’re going to end up with an unwell force at some stage.”
Two years ago, Avon and Somerset Police Federation commissioned a survey into its members’ sleep habits and found that only 14% of shift workers who responded felt they were getting enough sleep. The report stated: “Sleep and fatigue is a significant area of concern and is having an impact on performance and safety.”
Recommendations were made to the force at the time, Tony said, including not changing shifts at late notice, improving sleep education and trialing light therapy to boost the alertness of those in the control room.
But these measures have not yet been picked up by the force – and the Federation are hoping this latest national Policing Wellbeing Survey may add more weight to the argument.
Tony added that Avon and Somerset Police officers had recently had their shifts changed at short notice to police crowds watching – and reacting to - Euro 2020. He said: “I think for those officers who are struggling, there needs to be a proper forum to allow a discussion to take place, and for them to be able to have a conversation with their line manager, instead of just receiving an email saying, ‘Your shift will change’. They should feel they are able to talk about it; have a voice in it.”
The recent sleep survey, carried out by the police wellbeing service Oscar Kilo, heard from more than 22,000 police officers and staff between November 2020 and January 2021. It found there had been a slight improvement in the amount of sleep officers were getting, as last year’s survey found that nearly half – 45% – were getting less than six hours a night.
Commenting on the Oscar Kilo survey, Deputy Chief Constable Bernie O’Reilly, CEO of the College of Policing, said: “We ask our officers and staff to do an incredibly challenging job every day. It’s vital we look after them and importantly understand their needs and that’s why this survey is so important. We will take a hard look at the findings of the survey and then see what we can do to support colleagues further.”