In a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that a large cross section of on and off duty police officers had difficulty with their sleep cycles.
It stated: “Of the 4608 participants who completed the sleepiness scale, 1312 (28.5%) reported excessive sleepiness. Of the total cohort, 1294 (26.1%) reported falling asleep while driving at least 1 time a month. Respondents who screened positive for obstructive sleep apnea or any sleep disorder had an increased prevalence of reported physical and mental health conditions, including diabetes, depression, and cardiovascular disease.”
What is also worth noting is the toll that’s exacted on the brain of active duty officers. “It’s like accruing PTSD on the installment plan” says David Mayen, CEO of the Sleep Recovery Centers, Inc. “Nature wired the human central nervous system to deal with fight or flight engagements about three times per year. Peace officers have to be in that hyper-vigilant for 8 to 10 hours, 5 days a week. Bless them for what they do, but their culture is ‘suck it up—and deal with it later.’ After 25 years, it’s a neurological war zone in-between the temples” .
It is a known fact within the neuro-scientific community that over excitation of the CNS can lodge trauma in a brain region called the amygdala. This area is deep in the brain where primal instincts, fear and aggression reside. And on a brainwave level, this shows up as high alpha amplitude that tends to “spike up”, especially when the officer is trying to sleep. Every time this happens, the sleep cycles within the brain has to re-start again in it’s attempt to achieve restorative rest.
Unfortunately, for many those in law enforcement and returning military personnel, the medical community tries to treat this with an assortment of anti-anxiety agents, anti-depressants and sleeping pills. None of which seem to have a lasting effect. These chemical agents, as well as prolonged sleep loss itself can slow down reaction times completely vital in firefights, auto pursuits and hand to hand combat.
One treatment used with great promise on returning veterans with PTSD is called neurofeedback. A nationwide network of licensed neurofeedback providers have chosen to treat these wounded warriors free of charge. (An encouraging video of a vet being treated can be seen here).
Neurofeedback can now be performed, as well as medically supervised, live via the Internet in the patients home. This makes much sense for police officers looking to keep their anonymity, and also reduce the time spent driving. Several studies have shown that when an insomnia sufferer is sleep deprived for only two nights in succession, they are actually more impaired behind the wheel than a drunk driver.
So if your an officer of the law and are having trouble sleeping, please try not to convince yourself it will get better on it’s own. Reach out for help and not only will you protect and serve yourself and family better, but also the community you’ve upheld to protect as well.
David A. Mayen is founder and CEO of Sleep Recovery Centers, Inc. A specialty practice providing neurofeedback treatment technology nationally via the Internet.
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