Blood pressure, sleep quality and fatigue in shift working police officers: Effects of a twelve hour roster system on cardiovascular and sleep health

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Journal Article
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2016, 13 (2)
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© 2016 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. Background: Police officers have been reported to exhibit a high incidence of pathologies, which present prematurely in an otherwise healthy population. Shift work has also been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular and sleep disorders, attributable to its propensity for circadian rhythm dysfunction. However, contention exists as to whether shift work has a direct effect upon blood pressure (BP) regulation. Methods: This cross-sectional study sought to determine changes in BP and associations with the overall sleep quality and fatigue in 206 general duties police officers (n = 140 males) of the New South Wales Police Force in Australia. The subjects’ BP was assessed before and after their twelve hour shift, during which time they also completed the Lifestyle Appraisal Questionnaire, Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), Epworth Sleepiness Scale and Fatigue Severity Scale (FSS). Results: Poor sleep quality (PSQI) and fatigue severity (FSS) were found to predominate in the sample (69% and 51% respectively). Although there was no change in BP for male participants, female officers’ systolic blood pressure (SBP) was found to increase significantly across the shift (p < 0.001), but with no change found in females’ diastolic blood pressure (DBP). Finally, higher pre and post-shift SBP (r = ‒0.26, p = 0.001; r = ‒0.25, p = 0.001, respectively) and DBP (r = ‒0.26, p = 0.001; r = ‒0.26, p = 0.001, respectively) were significantly correlated with lower FSS scores after accounting for age, waist-hip ratio and lifestyle risk factors. Conclusions: Based on these preliminary findings, there was a significant increase in SBP of female police officers after shift work, while BP and fatigue levels in all police officers were strongly related. Moreover, the predominating poor sleep quality and impact of fatigue in this sample remain a concern. Further research is required to ensure the physiological welfare of police officers, while strategies must be implemented to manage the detrimental effects shift work may be having upon their cardiovascular and sleep health.
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