Risk Management Through Fatigue Management

Think back on the last time you rested. Did you get at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep, and, if so, did you get the same amount of rest the last nine times you slept? If the answer to either of these questions is “no,” then it is likely you are suffering from some amount of fatigue—and you are not alone. Fatigue is ever present in the law enforcement profession, so much so that many officers’ bodies have become accustomed to operating in a constant state of fatigue, which leads to increased risk. Understanding why law enforcement officers are likely suffering from fatigue, the impact of fatigue on officers’ performance, and what agency leaders can do to mitigate the risks associated with sleep loss, is key to managing the risks associated with fatigue.

Adequate sleep is defined as between seven and eight hours of restful, restorative sleep each night. However, studies show that officers are not getting this much rest. In 2009, Dr. Bryan Villa, a former police officer and leading researcher in police officer performance and sleep deprivation, reported that “[m]ore than half of police officers fail to get adequate rest… More than 90 percent report being routinely fatigued, and 85 percent report driving while drowsy.” In 2015, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention labeled sleep deprivation as “an important public health concern.”