Allowing police officers to take nap breaks on night shifts could do wonders for their health, wellbeing and productivity, according to Hampshire Police Federation.
Chair Zoë Wakefield has spoken out about the toll years of night shifts and poor sleep patterns can have on officers’ physical and mental health.
Zoë spent 21 years working 24-hour shift patterns, most recently as a neighbourhood officer, which meant she never really felt rested.
She said: “You really notice the impact it has on you when you stop doing night shifts. You feel so much better. I don’t think you always realise how much it affects you when you’re in it. It’s only when you come out of it and you start to sleep better that you really notice.
“You have this constant fatigue and you feel tired all the time. It affects cognitive function. The long-term health effects are well-documented.
“You feel like you’re never quite with it. Even on your rest days, you just feel like you’re never sufficiently recovered to keep your concentration levels going. And you never really sleep well. You’ll be awake at 2am, 3am. A lot of people are only getting an average of four or five hours’ sleep – even when they are not working. And they are juggling that with work, childcare, families. It’s difficult.”
Zoë said evidence from the airline industry found that when pilots took a little break – which can be as short as a 20 minute nap – performance and wellbeing were enhanced.
She said she would advocate this in force, but that it would be difficult to bring into practice.
Zoë said: “Knowing that this has such an effect on wellbeing and performance, should we be allowing officers to have rests on night shifts?
“I think it would be a very brave Chief Constable that goes down that route. You would need to think about the media reaction. And it would need a lot of money, time and resources on it. But the evidence shows that it could work.”
The National Police Wellbeing Service Oscar Kilo has been holding webinars to help officers and staff improve their sleep patterns, and has recently released a ‘Better Sleep Toolkit’. Find out more here: https://oscarkilo.org.uk/new-better-sleep-toolkit-launched/