While it seems intuitive, a new study confirms that sleep disturbances increase the risk of work disability and may slow the return to work process.
Saliently, researchers discover the finding is especially true when the work disability is due to mental disorders or musculoskeletal diseases.
The results come from Finnish studies on social capital in the workplace and on wellbeing in the hospital workplace.
Sleep disturbances include difficulties initiating sleep, intermittent and nonrestorative sleep, and waking up too early.
The occurrence of these disturbances was studied in 56,732 public sector employees in Finland. During the three-year followup, seven percent of them were incapacitated for work.
Data on work disability and sickness absences lasting 90 days or longer, disability pensions and deaths were obtained from national registers.
The associations of sleep disturbances with returning to work were studied in employees who were on long-term sickness leave or retired on disability pension.
Just over one-fifth or 22 percent of the employees studied reported sleep disturbances on at least five nights a week. A further 26 percent reported sleep disturbances on 2+ nights a week.
In the former group, the risk of work disability for any reason was one and a half times greater than in employees who reported sleep disturbances once a week or less often.
The risk of work disability due to mental health problems or musculoskeletal disorders was elevated both in employees reporting mild and in those with severe sleep disturbances.
Severe sleep disturbances were also associated with work disability due to cardiovascular diseases, neurological diseases and external reasons such as accidents.
Sixty percent of the employees who were incapacitated returned to work within two years. The risk of a delayed return to work was higher among those whose work disability was due to musculoskeletal disorders.
Among men whose incapacity was due to mental health diseases, both mild and severe sleep disturbances predicted a slower return to work.
The results of the study have been published in the latest issue of the journal Sleep.
Source: Academy of Finland