Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Associations between shift work characteristics, shift work schedules, sleep and burnout in North American police officers: a cross-sectional study
  1. Scott A Peterson1,
  2. Alexander P Wolkow1,2,
  3. Steven W Lockley1,3,4,
  4. Conor S O'Brien3,
  5. Salim Qadri3,
  6. Jason P Sullivan3,
  7. Charles A Czeisler3,4,
  8. Shantha M W Rajaratnam1,3,4,
  9. Laura K Barger1,3,4
  1. 1 Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health, School of Psychological Sciences, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia
  2. 2 Paramedic Health and Wellbeing Research Unit, Monash University, Frankston, Victoria, Australia
  3. 3 Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, Departments of Medicine and Neurology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA, USA
  4. 4 Division of Sleep Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Laura K Barger; laura_barger{at}


Objectives To examine associations between shift work characteristics and schedules on burnout in police and whether sleep duration and sleepiness were associated with burnout.

Methods Police officers (n=3140) completed the Maslach Burnout Inventory (emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation, personal accomplishment) and self-reported shift schedules (irregular, rotating, fixed), shift characteristics (night, duration, frequency, work hours), sleep duration and sleepiness.

Results Irregular schedules, long shifts (≥11 hours), mandatory overtime, short sleep and sleepiness were associated with increased risk of overall burnout in police. Police working a greater frequency of long shifts were more likely to have emotional exhaustion (adjusted OR 1.91, 95% CI 1.35 to 2.72) than those not working long shifts. Night shifts were associated with depersonalisation (1.32, 1.05 to 1.66) compared with not working nights. Police working mandatory overtime had increased risk of emotional exhaustion (1.37, 1.14 to 1.65) than those who did not. Compared with fixed schedules, irregular schedules were associated with emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation (1.91, 1.44 to 2.54 and 1.39, 1.02 to 1.89, respectively). Police sleeping <6 hours were more likely to have emotional exhaustion (1.60, 1.33 to 1.93) than those sleeping longer, and excessive sleepiness was associated with emotional exhaustion (1.81, 1.50 to 2.18).

Conclusions Irregular schedules and increased night shifts, sleep disturbances and work hours were related to higher burnout risk in police. Future research should evaluate work schedules in law enforcement that optimise shift duration and frequency, and increase consistency in scheduling and control over work hours to limit burnout in police.

  • burnout
  • mental health
  • police
  • shift work
  • sleep

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:

Statistics from


  • SAP and APW contributed equally.

  • Contributors SAP, APW, LKB, CO, JPS, SQ, SWL, CAC and SMWR contributed to the design of the study. LKB, CO, JPS, SQ, SWL, CAC and SMWR contributed to data collection. SAP, APW, LKB and SMWR conducted the data analysis. All authors contributed to the interpretation of the data, and the preparation and refinement of the final manuscript.

  • Funding This work was supported by grant 2004-FS-BX-0001 and grant 2010C-10002 from the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, US Department of Justice, grants R01 OH008496 and R01 OH009403 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and grants from the ResMed Foundation. LKB, CAC, SWL, CO and SQ were supported in part by R01OH010300.

  • Disclaimer The funders had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis and interpretation of the data; preparation, review or approval of the manuscript and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

  • Competing interests SAP, APW, JPS, SQ and CO report no conflicts of interest. SMWR reports that he has served as a consultant through his institution to Philips Respironics, EdanSafe, National Transport Commission, Vanda Pharmaceuticals, Rail, Bus and Train Union, Tontine Group, Australian Workers’ Union, Transport Accident Commission, Meda Consumer Healthcare, New South Wales Department of Education and Communities, and has through his institution received grants from Philips Respironics and Vanda Pharmaceuticals and reimbursements for conference travel expenses from Vanda Pharmaceuticals. SMWR currently serves as a consult to and is a programme leader for the Cooperative Research Centre for Alertness, Safety and Productivity. SMWR institution has received equipment donations or other support from Compumedics, Philips Lighting, Optalert and Tyco Healthcare. SMWR is a former president of the Australasian Sleep Association and is Director of the Sleep Health Foundation. SMWR has also served as an expert witness and/or consultant to shift work organisations. LKB reports research support from Cephalon, NFL charities, Sysco and San Francisco Bar Pilots. LKB has received consulting/lecture fees or served as a board member for Alertness Solution, Ceridian, Davis Joint Unified School Board, San Jose State University Foundation, Pugot Sound Pilots, Sygma and Torvec. SWL has no conflicts of interests directly related to the research or results reported in this paper. SWL holds a process patent for ‘Systems and methods for determining and/or controlling sleep quality’, which is assigned to the Brigham and Women's Hospital per Hospital policy. SWL has received consulting fees from the BHP Billiton, EyeJust Inc., Noble Insights, and Team C Racing; honoraria and/or paid travel from BHP Billiton, DIN, Emory University, IES, Ineos, MIT, Roxbury Latin School, SLTBR, Solemma and Teague; has current consulting contracts with Akili Interactive; Apex 2100 Ltd.; Consumer Sleep Solutions; Headwaters Inc.; Hintsa Performance AG; Light Cognitive; Lighting Science Group Corporation; Mental Workout; PlanLED; Six Senses; Stantec; and Wyle Integrated Science and Engineering; has received unrestricted equipment gifts from Bionetics Corporation and F. Lux Software LLC; royalties from Oxford University Press. SWL has served as a paid expert for legal proceedings related to light, sleep and health. SWL is a programme leader for the CRC for Alertness, Safety and Productivity, Australia. CAC reports grants from Cephalon Inc., Jazz Pharmaceuticals Plc. Inc., National Football League Charities, Optum, Philips Respironics Inc., Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, ResMed Foundation, San Francisco Bar Pilots, Sanofi S.A., Sanofi-Aventis Inc., Schneider Inc., Sepracor Inc., Mary Ann & Stanley Snider via Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Sysco Corp., Takeda Pharmaceuticals Co. Ltd., Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd., and Wake Up Narcolepsy; and consulting fees from Bose Corporation, Boston Red Sox, Columbia River Bar Pilots, Samsung Electronics, Quest Diagnostics Inc., Teva Pharma Australia, Vanda Pharmaceuticals Inc., Washington State Board of Pilotage Commissioners, and Physician’s Seal; lecture fees from Ganésco Inc., Zurich Insurance Company Ltd., American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine, Eisenhower Medical Center, M. Davis and Company, UC San Diego, and University of Washington; and fees for serving as a member of an advisory board for Institute of Digital Media and Child Development, the Klarman Family Foundation, and the AARP. In addition, CAC holds a number of process patents in the field of sleep/circadian rhythms (e.g., photic resetting of the human circadian pacemaker), and holds an equity interest in Vanda Pharmaceuticals Inc. CAC is the incumbent of an endowed professorship provided to Harvard University by Cephalon Inc. Since 1985, CAC has also served as an expert on various legal and technical cases related to sleep and/or circadian rhythms including those involving the following commercial entities: Casper Sleep Inc., Comair/Delta Airlines, Complete General Construction Company, FedEx, Greyhound, HG Energy LLC, Purdue Pharma, LP, South Carolina Central Railroad Co., Steel Warehouse Inc., Stric-Lan Companies LLC, Texas Premier Resource LLC and United Parcel Service (UPS). CAC received royalties from the New England Journal of Medicine; McGraw Hill; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Penguin; and Philips Respironics Inc. for the Actiwatch-2 and Actiwatch-Spectrum devices. CAC interests were reviewed and managed by Brigham and Women's Hospital and Partners HealthCare in accordance with their conflict of interest policies.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval This study was approved by the Ethics Committees of Partners HealthCare (2015P001357/BHW) and Monash University (2736).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement No data are available.

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.