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Cops need naps
« on: April 20, 2007, 10:26:14 PM »

Force Science News #70
April 20, 2007

The Force Science News is provided by The Force Science Research Center, a
non-profit institution based at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
Subscriptions are free and sent via e-mail. To register for your free,
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click on the registration button.

In this issue



[NOTE: We'd like to hear your reaction to the observations and proposals
made by Trainer Tom Aveni in the report below. Please E-MAIL US at: We'll print a representative sampling of responses in a
future edition of Force Science News.]


Does your agency encourage you to nap on duty?

Probably not. But your department might get better performance and you might
be safer if regulated snoozing was permitted, according to well-known
trainer and consultant Tom Aveni, head of the Police Policy Studies Council
and a Technical Advisory Board member of the Force Science Research Center
at Minnesota State University-Mankato.

Recent research reports offer some impressive support for Aveni's
unconventional position by documenting the health and judgment benefits of
limited workplace dozing.

"Most of the egregious errors committed in law enforcement occur when
officers are fatigued or dealing with low-light conditions," Aveni pointed
out in a presentation on "Surviving the Night Shift" at a conference of the
International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Assn. (ILEETA). And the
rotating, irregular, or extended shifts common in policing contribute
significantly to officer fatigue, he declared.

"Those working rotating shifts, for example, average 5.5 hours of sleep when
working night hours," Aveni said. Because of second jobs, family
obligations, or disrupted sleep patterns, some officers, at least on
occasion, come to work with as little as 3 hours' sleep, "resulting in the
same level of impaired performance as ingesting the legal limit of alcohol.

"Sleep deficits may be partly recouped on days off," but until a full and
satisfying compensation occurs an officer's "mood and performance are
routinely affected."

Given the slim, real-world probability of consistently getting sufficient
sleep, naps during duty hours could help officers fight dangerous fatigue,
Aveni argues, along with brief exercise breaks, proper caffeine intake, low
glycemic (sugary) food consumption, and exposure whenever possible to
brightly lighted areas.

"Napping is usually seen as being derelict of duty, but progressive agencies
really should encourage it. It's a healthy means of fighting fatigue, and a
short nap--20 to 30 minutes--can work wonders in increasing alertness and

Recent research studies tend to agree.

For instance, a 6-person research team at Stanford University, headed by Dr.
Rebecca Smith-Coggins, studied the effects of napping on 49 resident
physicians and nurses working nights (1930-0730) in a university trauma
center ER. Some were allowed to take up to a 40-min. nap at 0300, while a
control group stayed awake for the entire 12-hr. shift.

Napping was done in a dark, quiet room away from ER activities, with a bed
and linens provided. Ninety percent of the nap subjects, whose mean age was
30, were able to fall asleep quickly (within 11 minutes) and slept for an
average of nearly 25 minutes.

Before and after the shift and also after the nap period, both groups were
tested for vigilance, memory, mood, and task performance. After shift, all
subjects participated in a 40-min. driving simulation test to measure
"behavioral signs of sleepiness and driving accuracy."

At the end of shift, the nap subjects showed quicker reaction times and
fewer lapses in vigilance, according to the study. They reported "more
vigor, less fatigue, and less sleepiness" than those who had worked without
napping. Moreover, the nappers were able to more quickly complete a simple
job-performance task (the simulated insertion of a catheter IV) and
exhibited "less dangerous driving," although both groups showed signs of
driving impairment after working overnight.

The only negative outcome evident in the nappers was a temporary worsening
of memory "immediately after the nap." This was attributed to sleep inertia,
"the feeling of grogginess...that can persist for up to 30 minutes after

Generally, "nap intervention provided beneficial effects," the researchers
noted, and planned naps in the workplace might well "promote a high level of
alertness, attention to detail, and decision-making proficiency."

[A full report of this study appears in the Nov. 2006 issue of the Annals of
Emergency Medicine, under the title "Improving Alertness and Performance in
Emergency Dept. Physicians and Nurses: the Use of Planned Naps." A summary
appears at:]

Aveni speculates that some officers' moral judgment may also be improved by
fatigue relief in the form of napping. Certainly the findings of another
recent study suggest that morally framed decision-making can be negatively
impacted by extended fatigue, which tends to affect activity in the region
of the brain that plays a major role in moral reasoning.

In this study, Dr. William Killgore and colleagues at the Walter Reed Army
Institute of Research tested 26 healthy, active-duty military personnel
after 2 sleepless nights to see whether the lack of shut-eye would hinder
their ability to make decisions in the face of emotionally charged, moral
dilemmas. "The findings could have implications for people who are both
routinely sleep-deprived and often need to make quick decisions in a
crisis," the researchers said. That would include soldiers in combat and
cops on the street.

The participants were first tested after an adequate sleep period and again
after an unusually long stint (53.5 hours) of continuous wakefulness. They
were given a wide variety of decision-making scenarios, including some that
were highly emotionally charged, highly personal, and burdened with moral

For example, one scenario stated: "You are negotiating with a powerful and
determined terrorist who is about to set off a bomb in a crowded area."
Thousands of people would be killed by the detonation. Your one advantage is
that you have his teen-age son in your custody. [The] only one thing you can
do to stop him from detonating his bomb [is to] break one of his son's arms"
in front of a camera "and then threaten to break the other one if he does
not give himself up." The participants were asked: "Is it appropriate for
you to break the terrorist's son's arm?"

[All other scenarios used are described at:]

The researchers were not concerned with evaluating "right" or "wrong"
answers-only with analyzing the decision-making process. Among other things
they found that:

--the test participants took significantly longer to decide how to react to
the highly personal, morally charged situations when they were
sleep-deprived compared to when they were well rested. This suggests that
fatigue "has a particularly debilitating effect on judgment and
decision-making processes that depend heavily upon the integration of
emotion with cognition," the researchers concluded.

--sleep loss also led generally "to an increase in the permissiveness or
tolerance for judging difficult courses of action as appropriate," the study
found. Only participants with above-average "emotional intelligence," the
ability to empathize and interact socially with other people, showed
resistance to being influenced by sleeplessness in this regard.

Such findings "may have implications for those in occupations" frequently
associated with sleep loss "and in which real-world moral dilemmas may be
encountered.... When sleep deprived, such personnel may experience greater
difficulty reaching morally based decisions under emotionally evocative
circumstances and may be prone to choosing courses of action that differ
from those that they would have chosen in a fully rested state," the study
report states.

"The implications for police work, where life-and-death decisions must often
be made in crisis mode, is obvious," Aveni recently told Force Science News.

[A full report of this study can be found in the journal Sleep, vol. 30, #3,
2007, under the title: "The Effects of 53 Hours of Sleep Deprivation on
Moral Judgment." For an abstract, go to:]

A third recent study concerned an important health benefit of napping.

A team of Greek and American researchers, headed by Dr. Androniki Naska of
the University of Athens Medical School, confirmed that people who take at
least 3 naps a week lasting 30 minutes or longer cut their risk of dying
from a heart attack by 37 percent.

The study followed more than 23,600 originally healthy men and women for
more than 6 years. Even those who napped only occasionally had a 12 per cent
lower coronary mortality rate than those who never napped. Men who were
working seemed especially to benefit.

Napping, the researchers said, appeared to reduce stress, and "there is
considerable evidence that both acute and chronic stress are related to
heart disease."

[A full report of this study appeared in Archives of Internal Medicine on
Feb. 12, 2007, under the title "Siesta in Healthy Adults and Coronary
Mortality in the General Population." A summary can be found at:]

"Police agencies need to start looking at napping as a restorative,
preventive measure, as something that can prevent serious errors," Aveni

"Other measures for fighting fatigue tend to be transitory. Rolling your
squad car window for a blast of cold, fresh air may perk you up for 2 to 3
minutes. Taking an exercise break where you do jumping jacks may buy you a
half hour's benefit. But with a nap of at least 20 minutes, you'll see a
pronounced improvement in performance, in vigilance, in eye-hand
coordination that can last up to 4 hours.

"Officers forced to work rotating shifts are thrust into an unnatural work
environment. In many cases, your body never adjusts to the changes in
schedule. Agencies need to consider effective countermeasures for safety's

Most agencies would understandably want to control where any officially
sanctioned napping takes place, Aveni acknowledges. Inside a patrol car is
not recommended, not only because of public perception but also because of
discomfort, distractions, and safety.

A sound-insulated area with recliners or cots inside a police facility is
more desirable, with naps scheduled in advance or permitted on request. Time
should be allowed, he says, to counteract sleep inertia upon awakening with
mild exercise before heading back on patrol.

Napping could become a collective bargaining issue in the future, Aveni
believes. But today, he admits, he knows of no department with an official
pro-napping policy.

The precedent is there, however, in industries like trucking, railroading,
and aviation. A New York company called MetroNaps has started marketing
customized napping "pods"--7-ft.-long, hooded recliners with headphones,
temperature controls, and lights that dim--to corporations willing to be on
the cutting edge of a new trend.

Reflecting on other hazardous occupations where "preventive napping" has
become part of the culture, Aveni notes: "If we held law enforcement to
civilian standards, this would be a very different profession."

[REMEMBER: We welcome your reactions to Aveni's remarks at:


An association between fatigue and faulty judgment in life-or-death
situations is dramatically drawn in a recent review by the National
Transportation Safety Board of airline accidents and near misses.

"Even though the Board's report concerns air traffic controllers, law
enforcement officers, too, risk disastrous consequences from the effect of
sleep deprivation on brain function," Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director
of the Force Science Research Center told Force Science News. "As with the
controllers, slower reaction times, missed cues, and foggy judgment brought
on by fatigue in cops can result in lost lives. The difference is that with
police officers the lives lost may include their own."

Lewinski cites a study some years ago of officer fatalities in auto
accidents. Researchers found that the highest-risk time for officers was
when driving home after a critical incident that significantly extended
their work day. "The combination of coming off an adrenalin dump and
entering a sleep-deprivation state produced fatigue that impaired their
attention and judgment with deadly consequences," Lewinski explains.

He also points out that most major disasters in the last 3 decades, from the
nuclear meltdown at Three-Mile Island to the explosion of the Challenger
shuttle, "were caused by individuals operating with significant sleep
deprivation, often on the first night of a new shift."

In a letter this month urging reform in scheduling and training, the NTSB
linked sleep deprivation in air traffic controllers to the worst U.S.
airline crash in 5 years and to at least 4 near-fatal incidents.

The fatal crash claimed 49 lives last August when a commuter jet tried to
use a closed runway in Lexington, KY. The controller on duty had reported to
work for the midnight shift after sleeping for only 2 hours.

The close calls included a controller working after only 4 hours' sleep who
ordered a passenger jet to take off directly into the path of another plane
in Chicago and a controller who cleared a cargo jet for takeoff on a closed
runway in Denver who had gotten 60 to 90 minutes of sleep before working an
overnight shift.

"The human brain is most alert and functions best when well-rested,"
Lewinski says. "You may think you can will yourself to overcome fatigue or
compensate for it with caffeine intake, for example. But that's true only
within fairly rigid limitations. Beyond those limits, physiology will win
out, to your decided disadvantage."

[For more details, see "Fatigue threatens air safety, NTSB says," by Alan
Levin in USA TODAY, 4/11/07 at:]

(c) 2007: Force Science Research Center,


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Re: Cops need naps
« Reply #1 on: April 23, 2007, 05:05:21 PM »
I worked midnight shift for 8 years straight.  I got off at 8 AM and had to pick up my kids by 5 pm.  I went to court 3-4 days a week  until at least 10:30.  Got home and got in bed by about 12:00 and got up at 4 so I could go get the kids.  I was always tired and cranky.  I know I was not performing at peak levels.  I didn't get to nap before going to work very often because I wanted to actually enjoy being with my family, working out, etc.

I don't know any cops, EMT's, or even ER people that didn't nap occasionally on night shift.  Of course firemen are expected to sleep on duty.

It always amazes me that the people we expect to make the most critical life and death decisions (cops, ER doctors, EMTs etc.) work hours that keep them from being at their best when they make those critical decisions.  I know that emergencies happen at the worst times, but I have always believed there should be some kind of trade off in time somewhere so these people can get the proper amount of rest.  Shift differential pay is great, but it doesn't replace sleep.

As for me, I went to straight days last August and couldn't be happier.


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Re: Cops need naps
« Reply #2 on: April 27, 2007, 02:57:26 PM »
I am familiar with a guy who got caught sleeping on a protection the protectee, who then reported this.  The agent's defense was that he was extremely tired from working 16 hour days for several weeks straight (literally).  Of course he never complained about being tired at all prior to this moment, nor did he have any problem making 48 hours of overtime every 2 weeks (we used to get as much as 100 in 2-weeks back in the old days beforee LEAP law was passed).  This caused a new policy to be initiated where people on protection details could only work 8-hour shifts.  This resulted in a 150% increase in personnel because now 3 shifts were needed instead of the basic 2x12 hour shifts.  The manpower strain on the agency was enormous and it became difficult to man protection detail missions.  It cost just as much money when the extra meals, lodging and airfare were entered into the equation, as it did when paying overtime was a reality.

Ultimately we went back to the old way in order to make personnel ends meet.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2007, 03:25:51 PM by Cold War Scout »
"This is a war, and we are soldiers. Death can come for us at any time, in any place." ~ Morpheus


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Re: Cops need naps
« Reply #3 on: May 05, 2007, 04:55:41 AM »
Force Science Research Center <> wrote:
Date: Fri, 04 May 2007 20:33:33 -0500
Subject: FORCE SCIENCE NEWS: Transmission #71
From: Force Science Research Center <>
To: <>

Force Science News #71
May 4, 2007

The Force Science News is provided by The Force Science Research Center, a
non-profit institution based at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
Subscriptions are free and sent via e-mail. To register for your free,
direct-delivery subscription, please visit and
click on the registration button. For reprint clearance, please e-mail:


About the time we were transmitting our recent article on the need for
on-shift naps, one of the nation's foremost law enforcement risk managers
was independently telling a standing-room crowd at the annual ILEETA
training conference that fatigue is a life-threatening issue for street
officers and that approved napping should be considered an on-duty necessity.

Risk and liability specialist Gordon Graham, an attorney and retired captain
with the California Highway Patrol, claimed later in an interview with Force
Science News that fatigue played a significant role in at least 3 officer
deaths that he's aware of in recent months in just one state alone.

"Administrators won't talk about it," Graham says, "but our cops are
ticking time bombs for lack of sleep.

"If a big rig runs off the road, we take that driver's life apart for the
previous few days, looking at his sleep log, among other things. But when
something tragic happens with a cop, we don't analyze for fatigue.

"Wouldn't it be interesting to know how many hours of sleep officers have
had before some of the controversial shootings that have rocked law
enforcement? Or to correlate citizen complaints with officer fatigue?

"Fatigue is an identifiable risk. Let's take responsibility and manage that

"I'd like to see officers paid to take care of 3 basic needs while on duty:
to eat, to nap, and to work out so they stay in better physical shape. This
could be a negotiable issue with the unions. I'm convinced that all the
positives would be up and that we'd save money in the long run."

[Gordon Graham, who consults with agencies throughout the nation on
liability issues, can be reached at:]

In our report on fatigue and napping, which you can read here:

we asked for comments. In this "Mailbag" edition of Force Science News, we
present a representative sampling of your responses, edited for clarity and
brevity. The views expressed do not necessarily represent those of the
writers' employers.


As the research continues to confirm the importance of adequate sleep,
employers continue to ignore the implications. Police agencies are far and
beyond the worst offenders, small agencies in particular.

I work in a 12-officer agency. My REGULAR schedule, not affected by other
officers taking a sick day or holiday or overtime/court requirements, has me
working AT LEAST 2 different shifts in the SAME week.

"Double backs," with only 8 hours scheduled off between shifts (e.g.,
working an evening shift until midnight then having to be back at work at 8
AM) are the rule for every officer's schedule. Given report time, commute
time, getting ready for bed, sleeping, getting up and ready for work, that
translates to about 4 hours of actual sleep.

A TYPICAL schedule for me is midnight, double back to an evening shift,
another midnight, then double back again to another evening, then double
back yet again to a day shift: All 3 shifts in 1 week, with 3 double backs
and MAYBE 12 hours of total sleep--assuming your body isn't so confused by
the constantly variable schedule that you CAN sleep--and you're so damn
tired you can hardly think straight.

It isn't safe, it isn't smart, and it's a miserable way to live. Officers
are irritable and short with people, their productivity is quite
lacking--but at least they're not crashing their patrol cars into civilians.

Oh, wait...they are! When they're not racking up citizen complaints for
being rude.

Two factors perpetuate this pattern: One, there aren't enough officers.
Adding officers means more money, and small agencies simply do not have
enough money. Second, the administrators and supervisors writing the
schedules that affect all their officers work a straight day shift with
weekends off. They lose track of what it means to be sleep deprived.

Forget sanctioned naps. When you have only 1 officer on duty, you want him
to actually be awake for calls.

A Deputy from Texas


I agree with the need to catnap to recharge. However, if our brothers in
blue are tired only because they have a second job, sleep on that one.

John Mertz
State Conservation Ofcr.
Knoxville, IA


I would not agree to napping on the 3 PM to 11 PM shift but definitely on
the midnight shift. It becomes unsafe when you have been driving around for
6 hours with little or no calls. If the call volume is high the fatigue does
not seem to set in as much. But the slow nights make it very hard to stay

Ofcr. Cliff Mahan
Guthrie (OK) PD


My old department would let us come in for a 20- to 30-min. break and
snooze. This did wonders, especially when things were slow, since I could
only average 3-4 hours of sleep before work. Working 12-hr. shifts killed me.

A Force Science Reader


Officer fatigue is a valid argument for 2-person assignments. As a sergeant
I notice I am less efficient when I have to drive and supervise. When I have
a driver, my work is more efficient and I have more energy because I can
rest while being driven.

Napping, however, is another matter and unacceptable in a world where we
already have a tarnished image of not doing enough!

Sgt. Richard Aztlan
Chicago PD, Mass Transit


I have said to my officers on the 3rd watch (2100-0700) that I am not
encouraging sleeping on duty, but I am a realist. I know it will happen,
especially at the first couple of weeks into the shift change. Therefore,
call your beat partner or me and have another cop park next to you while you
catch a 30-min. nap.

I have done so myself. I find the short rest is very refreshing and will
carry you alertly through the rest of the shift. I view this nap as healthy
and possibly lifesaving, not only during your shift but afterward while
you're on your way home.

A Sergeant from California


For a decade I worked a job with a shift of 24 hours on and 48 hours off. It
took my body and brain nearly 2 years to become truly accustomed to this
shift, and for me to learn coping strategies to deal with the issues this
shift induced.

My local police department rotates officer shifts every 3 months, to be
"fair" don't you know. This is a huge mistake. I suspect officers may take 2
of the 3 months for their bodies, brains, and sleep and their family and
social patterns to become mostly adapted to the new shift. Just as they're
getting into a rhythm, their department disrupts them all over again with a
mandatory shift rotation.

Such departments must have a lot of officers operating at fractional
potential much of the time, just because of this effort to be "fair." If
this disruptive practice has not been studied, it's dang time it were.

Gary Marbut, president
Montana Shooting Sports Assn.
Missoula, MT


All of us know [napping] has gone on since the first night shift began. It's
human nature. Having trained your body to be awake in the day and asleep at
night then telling it to do something totally to the contrary on changing
intervals is not only very dangerous it's unhealthy.

Still, I believe this is a hard sell to administrators who don't have to
deal with this issue themselves. Also not everyone can just fall asleep on

A Force Science Reader


I have been in LE for over 28 years and totally agree that sleep deprivation
is a severe detriment to many officers. I average about 5 hours of sleep a
night while working our day shift. Because my spouse works and my child is
grown, I have the luxury of sleeping in on my days off, trying to make up
for my lost sleep. However, I find that I am often fatigued at work,
especially during the early morning hours and after the work day. Our shift
pattern causes all shifts to work during some hours of darkness.

Over the years we have allowed, and even encouraged, officers to come to the
station and take a snooze if they become over-tired. Unfortunately, even
though our manning is higher than it has ever been, our calls for service
have also increased to the point that allowing for a nap except under the
most serious situations has become a thing of the past.

Until there's a plan that allows for naps without causing a problem with
response to calls, it's coffee and supplements!

A Lieutenant from Florida


If a lunch hour is in your shift hours, even half an hour, get permission to
sleep your lunch break, and eat energy bars and fruit as you drive to
replace a formal lunch.

Mike Hargreaves
CEO, Community Patrol, Inc.
Orlando, FL

(c) 2007: Force Science Research Center,


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Re: Cops need naps
« Reply #4 on: May 13, 2007, 12:26:28 PM »

If a lunch hour is in your shift hours, even half an hour, get permission to
sleep your lunch break, and eat energy bars and fruit as you drive to
replace a formal lunch.

This was an option I often took when it was available.  A 30-minute nap instead of a 30-minute coffee break will do wonders for you.

I notice in a lot of photos I have seen from Iraq of soldiers in defensive type activities, that you will frequently see many of them napping while others are alert.  I see the same at every track meet I go to.  Kids napping in between events.
"This is a war, and we are soldiers. Death can come for us at any time, in any place." ~ Morpheus