Everyone knows police work is dangerous business. But police men and women themselves may not know that working the night shift is risky for more insidious reasons than guns or criminals.
John Violanti, an associate professor of social and preventive medicine at the University at Buffalo, has found signs of metabolic syndrome – a group of symptoms that occur together and promote the development of coronary artery disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes – in police officers who work more night shifts.
Violanti studied the work records of 98 police officers and divided them up into those who worked the most day shifts, afternoon shifts, and night shifts. The latter group had increased waist size and glucose intolerance, heightened blood pressure and triglycerides, and reduced levels of the HDL “good” cholesterol.
The study was published in the Archives of Environmental and Occupational Health.
Researchers controlled for factors that may influence these health measures, such as smoking and exercise. Controlling for these factors means that even if night shift workers did smoke more and exercise less; those factors didn’t change the results.
One factor that did differ in those that worked more night shifts was sleep.
“Those that worked the night shift had less sleep than the others,” Violanti says, averaging less than six hours of sleep each night. What sleep they got was “fractured,” he says, with more reported night wakings.
“I think it’s a major part of the question – the disruption of the circadian cycle,” Violanti says. [Night shift workers are up all night to work their 10-hour shift].
Next, Violanti hopes to replicate his findings in a larger sample.
Violante is among the many SUNY experts who are creating a healthier New York through research, outreach, clinical care, health education and acute care.