“Ongoing sleep deprivation can compromise your mental as well as physical health and well-being,” says Puneet Patni, M.D., a board-certified physician specializing in Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic. “Sleep deprivation is not unique to law enforcement, but the consequences of habitual lack of sleep can be amplified by the unique stressors that come with police work. This can be a significant problem, because daytime drowsiness may increase your risk for life-threatening, on-the-job mishaps.”
Sleep deprivation may also lower your body’s immune resistance, leaving you vulnerable to illnesses you might have otherwise repelled, Dr. Patni explains.
“A consistently late bedtime isn’t the only cause of sleep deprivation,” he says. “Other factors include emotional stress; poor diet; excessive alcohol or caffeine consumption; and physical problems such as sleep apnea, which is one of the most common causes of sleep interruptions.”
Sleep apnea is usually caused by a collapse of tissue around the soft palate and throat area that impedes breathing and causes sleep disruptions, he explains.
5 strategies for a better night’s sleep
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine four to six hours before bedtime. Caffeine can be found in coffee, sodas, tea, and even chocolate. Caffeine will keep you awake, even if ingested hours before bedtime. Likewise, nicotine will disrupt your sleep. And an alcoholic “nightcap” can disrupt sleep. Though it may initially cause drowsiness, alcohol fragments the stages of your sleep.
- Avoid, if you can, liquids three hours before bedtime. This can help avoid middle-of-the night trips to the bathroom.
- Take a nice, warm bath. Close your eyes and release any frustrations of the day.
- Set a “sleep stage.” Arrange a cool, quiet bedroom that’s free of distractions – ideally, without television. Dim the lights and listen to relaxing music.
- Try to keep a “sleep time.” Keep a consistent bedtime and wake-up time even on weekends. (Trying to “sleep in” on weekends may set you up for future nights of frustration.)
“Your mind and body need a consistent quality of sleep to help you function properly. Anyone dealing with erratic sleep should have an evaluation by a medical specialist to confirm the cause of sleep deprivation and discuss treatment options,” Dr. Patni recommends. Dr. Patni cares for patients at Kelsey-Seybold’s Clear Lake Clinic, Pasadena Clinic, and Berthelsen Main Campus. For patients meeting certain criteria, he may recommend a diagnostic study at Kelsey-Seybold’s Sleep Center to better evaluate a patient’s condition and discuss treatment options.