We have teamed up with experts at Washington State University to explore whether a training input and simple diet and exercise interventions could improve officer health and wellbeing, by improving sleep and reducing fatigue levels. The overarching intent was to create a positive culture of support around sleep, health and wellbeing.
Sleep and fatigue pilot study
To trial this study we initially worked with four police forces, these were Surrey and Sussex, Thames Valley and West Yorkshire Police.
This study measured wrist actigraphy to objectively measure sleep quantity and quality, immediately before and approximately six weeks after a fatigue-management training intervention. In addition, self-reported sleep, health, and wellbeing data was gathered from participants before and after the training. Fifty police officers were enrolled in the study and completed baseline testing, training intervention, and post-training testing. Testing involved wearing a wrist actigraph (watch type device) to objectively measure sleep quantity and quality for seven consecutive days immediately before completing the training, and again approximately six weeks after completing the training. Participants also responded to a set of questions investigating their sleep, health, and wellbeing.
The fatigue management intervention consisted of a single video-based training session, delivered virtually. The training content included the science of sleep, safety and performance risks associated with fatigue, health consequences of sleep restriction, sleep hygiene tips, fatigue countermeasures, and stress management to improve sleep. The training video was approximately 60 minutes in length.
Before the training intervention, participants received on average 6.9 hours of sleep per 24-hour period. Following the training intervention, participants received on average 7.3 hours of sleep per 24-hour period. This was a statistically significant improvement. A significant result was also found on sleep quality, which improved from 84% before the intervention, to 87% after the training.
The fatigue management training resulted in many other positive health benefits. Before the training, only 16% of participants were satisfied with their sleep, compared to 36% following the training. Of particular note was the elimination of dozing off at the wheel, from 4% to 0% of the sample.
Additionally, large reductions were observed in sleep disturbance associated with hypervigilance or trauma (from 53% to 32% of the sample), excessive daytime sleepiness (from 24% to 10% of the sample), constant tiredness (from 27% to 18% of the sample), and general trouble sleeping (from 56% to 39% of the sample).
Furthermore, post-traumatic stress symptoms were reduced from being experienced by 17% to 10% before and after the training. Related, hyper-vigilance reduced from being experienced by 46% to 32%.
Sleep and fatigue follow up study
This initial pilot study was followed up with a randomised control trial with Humberside, Lincolnshire and West Yorkshire Police.
The same materials were utilised in the follow up study, however, participants were randomly assigned to either an intervention or a control group. The intervention group received training after baseline testing and before post-intervention testing. The training was made available to the control group after the post-intervention phase. This avoided depriving the control group participants of receiving the intervention, whilst still being able to have a comparison group, who had not received the intervention at the time of post-intervention testing.
Unfortunately, there were gaps and inconsistencies in the actigraphy data in this trial. However, survey data was available and usable, where it was found that;
- Post training quality of life rated “very good” increased from 16% before the intervention to 20% after the intervention.
- Post training health rated by participants as “satisfied” and “very satisfied” improved from 55% before the intervention to 63% after the intervention.
- The percentage of participants reporting depression symptoms “very often” or “always” dropped from 18% before the intervention to 6% after the intervention.
- The percentage of participants reporting using sleep medication three or more times per week went from 4% before the intervention, to 0% after the intervention.
- The percentage of participants reporting no trouble staying awake whilst driving, eating meals, engaging or during social activities increased from 60% before the intervention to 73% after the intervention.
- The percentage of participants reporting no problem with enthusiasm to get things done increased from 10% before the intervention to 21% after the intervention.
- The percentage of participants reporting their sleep as “fairly good” or “good” increased from 40% before the intervention to 52% after the intervention.
- The percentage of participants satisfied with sleep improved from 19% before the intervention to 37% following the intervention.
Diet and exercise study
We worked with Northumbria Police to trial this study.
The diet and exercise intervention evaluation used a within-subject design, taking baseline measurements from participants. Baseline measurements consisted of a survey made up of a number of well validated instruments.
This programme lasted for one month and provided officers and staff with recommendations on what to eat and when, and how to exercise and when. It was deliberately not restrictive, in that participants were given a variety of diet and exercise regimes to follow. This was important as not all people have the same tastes or get the same enjoyment from a particular exercise regime. For example yoga was encouraged, given its benefits for stress reduction as well as core strength, but variations and alternatives were provided for members who were not likely to get involved in yoga.
Peer support was encouraged and fostered to maximise ‘buy in’ and compliance with the intervention. In addition, exercise sessions were no longer than 20 minutes and did not require any specialised equipment, nor were meal plans expensive or time consuming to prepare.
After the month-long training intervention, follow up measurements were taken from participants in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the program.
Several improvements were seen in relation to quality of life, such as improvements in satisfaction with health, a healthier diet and satisfaction with diet, along with significant improvements in “satisfaction with exercise”. Sleep quantity improved from a mean of 6.4 hours before the training, to 6.9 hours after the training. This increase of 30 minutes per 24-hour period is encouraging and consistent with findings from the sleep and fatigue training evaluation. The time taken to fall asleep was also reduced, along with reductions in daytime sleepiness.
Fatigue risk management online training
Our thanks go to Lois and Steve James at Washington State University for working with us to develop and deliver these studies. The results are very encouraging in relation to utilising a short training intervention to improve sleep, diet and exercise, and therefore overall health and wellbeing. As such, an i-learn package has now been developed from the resources provided and available vis the College of Policing, College Learn platform.
Access the training
To access the course you must have a College Learn account, available to anyone with a .police.uk email, they can be created on the College of Policing website
Once you are logged in just search Fatigue Risk Management, the course lasts around 50 minutes.
If you have difficulties accessing College Learn please contact the College Customer Contact Centre at [email protected]
Please contact us if you would like to learn more about any of these projects.