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The Dangers of & Avoiding Fatigue

Most officers that make it to retirement age do not live long enough to enjoy their hard earned retirement, 2-5 years is average depending on what study you read.  Chronic fatigue & constant stress will slowly and steadily take their toll.  I recall a conversation with LEO just last week where he was on his “long week” 7 day stretch.  He had a rookie aka. Child and was pulling OT every night.  On average he was sleeping no more than 4 hours straight for a week and since he had to babysit every shift there was little time for a nap.  On the 8th day, his off day, he spent it in bed sick. The 9th day was in the doctor’s office.

While it’s normal and arguably acceptable ( in LE) to go days and even weeks without getting a full 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, the effects on your body are no less lethal.  Research clearly shows us that insufficient sleep, interrupted sleep or chemically induced sleep can have lethal effects.  So let’s break down some of the common things that sleep deprivation causes.

1. Immune Suppression: You get sick more often and there is a general inability to fight off common bugs that that would not normally make you sick.

2. Obesity: There is a direct correlation between poor sleep and weight gain.  Your body heals and resets only in deep REM sleep and that requires at least 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

3. Cardiac abnormalities: Fatigue has been shown to contribute to heart abnormalities including palpitations and arrhythmias.

4. Concentration errors: You know what it’s like to work in zombie mode so no need to spell this one out.

5. PTSD: Some data has shown that PTSD effects, which all LEO’s suffer from, are worse when sleep is poor.  Unfortunately PTSD can also alter your sleep patterns.

The million dollar question is how do we get better sleep when your financial survival is often based on how many overtime shifts you can pull.

Exercise: One of the best things to promote deep and restful sleep is consistent exercise.  One of the big things I advocate is that during the long week’s just move. It does not need to be fancy or hard core, in fact lower intensity is better when tired.

I am a big fan of martial arts for many reasons.  It will help you survive your job, it will keep you flexible and agile specific to your job and it will teach you how to breathe and relax under stressful situations.  In short going to the Dojo will save your life in many ways AND LEO’s get discounts at most schools.

Healing Foods: A side effect of fatigue and stress is inflammation.  Add in poor food choices that further cause inflammatory stresses on the body and brother we have issues.  LEO’s must choose foods that decrease inflammation and help the body get back to proper PH balance. 

Dark green leafy vegetables and dark fruits can help you achieve this goal.  Avoid or limit dairy, sugars and processed (in a bag or box) foods as they are almost always full of bad oils and sugars.  Drink a LOT of water and educate yourself about the massive benefits of fermented foods and how they will help your body heal and naturally detoxify.

Cravings: Strangely enough when you are stressed and or tired your body wants exactly what it does not need.  The following list will prove both interesting and helpful.


Stress Eating

What you crave

Why You Crave It

What you Should Eat



French Fries, Chips

Sugary cereal

Doughnuts, muffins, breads

Cortisol: the ‘stress hormone.

Triggers insulin release in oyur body. Causes cravings for refined carbs and sugars.  Constant cycle if crave-eat-feel better-need more.

Bran muffin, Brown rice

Dark green leafy veggies

Fresh (dark colored) fruit

Whole wheat pasta

Sweet potatoes



Fatigue Eating

What you Crave

Why you crave it

What you should Eat

Buttered popcorn

Coffee or cola

Fast food

Fried foods

Frozen foods

Ice cream

Mayo and or cheese

Galantin is a chemical released by the brain when you are tired. The more fatigued and stressed you get the more you want fat.


Grilled or broiled fish/chicken


Trail mix

Raw veggies

Protein bar

Smoothie with protein


Good Sleep

Unless you have the gift of sleep and can sleep anywhere, anytime, anyplace then good sleep is hard to come by.  Often getting good sleep is a matter of some pre-planning and out of the box thinking.

1. Sound: download a sound machine app, choose which one is the best for you and let the white noise block out all the background distractions.  This is especially helpful for you nocturnal LEO’s; just make sure the phone is on silent.

2. Light: Invest in blackout curtains and make your bedroom into a cave, cool, dark and secluded.

3. Caffeine: avoid all caffeine 3 hours before bedtime.  Read labels and make sure that drinks do not have added caffeine.

4. Alcohol: Limit your alcohol intake prior to sleep.  It’s been shown to actually decrease the amount of deep quality sleep you get.

5. Melatonin: A natural hormone that your brain secretes to induce sleep.  Shift work screws this up so a good melatonin supplement is a big help.  Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations or ask your doctor. 

So go download that app, get some greens in your diet, get back in the dojo and go to sleep!