We have teamed up with experts at the University of Surrey to launch a new sleep disorders education and screening programme aimed at reducing fatigue and sleep problems in police officers and staff.

The aim of the programme, is to improve the alertness, sleep, health and safety of those in emergency response roles.

The SAFER Programme, SAFER stands for Sleep, Alertness and Fatigue in Emergency Responders, has been developed and designed by Prof Steven Lockley of the University of Surrey who has been studying sleep and circadian rhythms for over 25 years. While working at Harvard Medical School, he and his colleagues implemented similar education and screening programmes in police officers and firefighters and found that over a third of active duty personnel were at risk of at least one sleep disorder without knowing it.

In follow-up studies, these programmes resulted in many hundreds of police officers seeking treatment for their sleep disorder, helping their long-term health and, in one fire department study, led to nearly a 50% reduction in long-term disability days and a 24% lower odds of having an accident or injury on duty.

Why are we doing it?

Oscar Kilo, the National Police Wellbeing Service is piloting this programme in response to the findings of the National Wellbeing Survey which highlighted fatigue as a big area of concern.

We know that those working in policing often experience high levels of fatigue due to long work hours, shift patterns, untreated sleep disorders and stress. This affects workplace performance, increases the risk of accidents and injuries, and impacts your long-term health.

Some of these risk factors can be minimised, and the aim of this programme is to identify the factors that affect workplace fatigue and identify approaches to reduce the risks.

One common reason for workplace fatigue is undiagnosed sleep disorders. Previous studies have shown that up to a third of police officers may be at risk of having a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnoea, insomnia or shift work sleep disorder.

How it works

The SAFER programme is open to anyone to take part – you do not have to be a shift worker or frontline worker and you do not have to have any problems with sleep or fatigue. We want as many people as possible to take part so we get a representative picture of sleep issues.

It doesn’t take long, and could provide you with some real benefits so it really is worth getting involved. Here’s a run down of the process:

  • You will first watch three, 15 minute educational videos on sleep health and hygiene, effective use of caffeine, and examples of how to manage different shift patterns. 
  • At the beginning, and again at the end, you will be asked some questions on sleep which will take less than 5 minutes.
  • These answers will be provided anonymously, and we will not know who you are.
  • Completion of the educational video is not considered part of the research study and is completely voluntary. You may watch the video and there is no obligation for you to go any further if you do not wish to.
  • Once you have watched the videos, you will then be invited to complete a screening survey to assess your risk of sleepiness, major sleep disorders and burnout.  
  • You will sign an online consent form to take part but again, the questionnaire is completely anonymous (we will not know your identity or police force) and no individual results will be shared with anyone, including with the force or occupational health.
  • After completing the questions, if the screening shows that you may be at risk of any of these disorders, then a letter will automatically be generated that you can save or print and take to your GP if you wish to.

How can I get involved?

We are aiming to roll this out nationally in November 2021 and would like as many officers and staff to take part as possible.

You will be able to access the full programme from this page, and we will be encouraging people to take part nationally and locally so we can get a wider view on sleep issues right across policing.