Norwegian researchers say sleep problems are turning into an economic nightmare, leading to 253 million days of sick leave a year in the United States alone.
There is a growing recognition that insomnia and sleep apnea cause both absenteeism and presenteeism (a loss of productivity while at work) and may even lead to serious accidents.
Researchers say that around 10 per cent of the population suffer from insomnia, a condition best described by having trouble falling asleep, waking up frequently at night, and still feeling tired in the morning.
Dr. Børge Sivertsen, a professor of clinical psychology at The University of Bergen and senior researcher at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, said that when you feel tired and indisposed, your performance at work suffers.
Sleep apnea is a more severe problem, said Sivertsen, affecting four to five per cent of the population. Sufferers can stop breathing for up to 40 seconds several times during the night, putting a huge strain on the heart. As a result, they have many micro-awakenings that stop them from reaching deep sleep.
According to the sleep scientist, a recently published study from the U.S. puts the annual losses from insomnia alone at $63.2 billion annually. Only a third of this was due to actual absence from work; two-thirds was due to a loss in productivity while at work.
A new Australian study found that about two per cent of Australia’s GDP is lost due to sick leave caused by insomnia and sleep apnea disorder. This shows how common these disorders are and how much they affect work, Sivertsen said.
While not commonly recognized, each sleep disorder also has a strong impact on accident statistics with sleep disorders constituting a major cause of many traffic accidents.
Even when medications are used to help one sleep, Sivertsen’s studies show that sedatives can cause users to feel less rested during the daytime. Sleep medication may work in the short term, but after six weeks of use researchers noticed a decrease in deep sleep. Sleep may be uninterrupted, but you may not necessarily get quality sleep, Sivertsen said.
Sleep disorders also appear to be associated with health issues as researchers have found troubled sleep brings on a variety of problems ranging from an overconsumption of alcohol and an abundance of psychosomatic health care symptoms.
As such, Sivertsen wants insomnia treatment to become more accessible, and to include cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Moreover, several recent studies show that the Internet can be used to offer good and cost-effective methods of treatment. Web-based social support is also an effective method of addressing problems and discussing potential interventions.
Source: The University of Bergen