The following is a visitor-submitted question or story. For more, you can submit your own sleep story here, or browse the collection of experiences and questions other visitors have shared here.

Mandatory Overtime As A 911 Dispatcher

by Michelle
(Aurora, Il)

I have worked for a large police department for 16 years. We have had a staffing shortage every single year. Currently our staffing level is at a critical level. During an average week I am pulling four 16 hour shifts. Sometimes as many as five. Our 911 center is incredibly busy. At one time these constant double shifts were not so difficult, however, as I age, I noticed that my ability to function is so bad that I am afraid to work. We handle emergency medical dispatching, foot chases, car chases, you name it. The radio traffic is constant. We have to keep track of all the officers and fire personnel.

I have been researching the effects of sleep deprivation and would love some direction if anyone can help. I would like to stop our department from mandating anyone to have to work more than 12 hours. The research is clear that one's ability to function properly is so impaired that it is a health and safety risk.
I just don't know where to go from here. I would like to approach the issue as a health and safety problem, but I need some accredited studies to take to the city.

As I sit and type this, I notice my inability to focus. I got out of work at 1030 pm last night and had to be back at work this morning again at 0630. I was not able to sleep more than 2 hours last night. When I get out of work, my mind is still racing from the previous shift, so I can never fall asleep right away. This is a problem for all of the dispatchers here, as well as the police and fire personnel we are responsible for. Not to mention the citizens of our city. I personally would not want me to be the one answering the phone when CPR is needed or there is a serious emergency.

Kevin: Hi Michelle, Thank
you for writing in. Your astuteness at recognizing your own alertness limitations, and that of your colleagues/staff, is fantastic! A couple of resources come to immediate mind that may be useful for you:

Frequent guest lecturer in our Sleep and Dreams class, Mark Rosekind, helped found a company called Alertness Solutions that specializes in this kind of stuff--fatigue management in the workplace, alertness safety, limited hours and such. Their website is

Dr. Rosekind now works for the National Transportation Safety Board, only leaving Alertness Solutions when he was appointed for this position by the president. He's the first NTSB member with a sleep background, so that's a big step forward when it comes to recognizing the role fatigue plays in accidents and doing something about it, like you're after. The NTSB researches the causes of large accidents throughout the United States, and you can find some sleep-related stuff on their website as well. For example, the first aviation accident where the NTSB cited fatigue as a probable cause was a 1993 crash in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Here's a link to the slides from a presentation that Dr. Rosekind gave that mentions this and outlines some other fatigue and safety examples. He's a great lecturer, so unfortunately they only give you a small fraction of the full extent of the talk, but at least they might point you towards a thing or two that may help.

Off the top of my head, some of the professions/industries that have been most affected by fatigue accidents are aviation, hospitals, and trucking. Alertness Solutions should have a good deal of information on those on their site. Dr. Dement also writes a lot about all these industries, and more broadly about fatigue hazards and public safety consequences in the Stanford Sleep Book.


(Please keep in mind that I am a student of sleep science and not a medical doctor. Please take any thoughts I give with my background in mind.)

Click here to post comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to The Effects of Sleep Deprivation.

Enjoy this page? Please help us pay it forward to others who would find it valuable by Liking, Sharing, Tweeting, Stumbling, and/or Voting below.

About This Site

Welcome! This site is continuously being created by students of Dr. William C. Dement's Sleep And Dreams course at Stanford University.

We made this site as a call to action for people all over the world to live healthier, happier, safer, and more productive lives by learning about their own sleep. We have faith that reading the information provided on this site will motivate you to be smart about your sleep deprivation and strategic about your alertness in order to live life to your fullest, most energetic potential.

In fact, we challenge you to do so! What do you say, are you up for the challenge?

A Note On Visitor-Submitted Questions:

Publishing sleep stories and questions from our visitors is meant to create a forum for open and proactive dialogue about an extremely important portion of our lives (one that occupies 1/3 of it and affects the other 2/3) that isn't talked about enough. It is not meant to substitute a trip to the doctor or the advice of a specialist. It's good to talk; it is not good to avoid consulting someone who's profession it is to help you with this kind of stuff.

If you are in any way concerned about your sleep health, don't wait for an answer on here, and don't necessarily rely on them. See a sleep specialist in your area as soon as possible.

More Questions:

Ask | Answer

The Stanford Sleep Book

Stanford Sleep Book Picture

Dr. Dement's pioneering textbook has been the core text for Sleep and Dreams since 1980, but it has just recently been made available to the wider public for the first time.

In it you'll find a more detailed account of the most important things you need to know about sleep, alertness, dreams, and sleep disorders. Studies, statistics, plus plenty of Dr. Dement's classic anecdotes painting the history of sleep medicine.

Preface | Intro | Contents | Get A Copy

More Sleep Resources

The Zeo

A revolution in personal sleep tracking, the Zeo is a wireless headband that transmits your brainwaves in realtime to a dock (pictured here) or your smartphone. The result? You can wake up and see exactly what stages of sleep you were in during the night! Unprecedented personalized sleep knowledge.

Sleep Paralysis: A Dreamer's Guide

Sleep Paralysis Treatment Book

Ever woken up paralyzed? A surprising number of us have, believe it or not. But few know the actual causes of this phenomenon, and fewer still how to exert control over it. Dream researcher and sleep paralysis expert Ryan Hurd shares breakthrough insights into how to do just that.

Important Disclaimer

Please Note:

The information found on this page and throughout this site is intended for general information purposes only. While it may prove useful and empowering, it is NOT intended as a substitute for the expertise and judgments of healthcare practitioners.

For more info, see our
Terms of Use.