Sleep Disorders

01 September 2011

Insomnia affects 23% of US workers

Insomnia affects around 23% of US workers, and brings a national cost for the sleeping disorder at R444.360 billion, a study showed.

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Insomnia affects around 23% of US workers, and brings a national cost for the sleeping disorder at R444.360 billion, a study showed.

On average US workers lose 11.3 days of productivity each year due to insomnia, according to a report from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, to be released in the issue of the journal Sleep.

"We were shocked by the enormous impact insomnia has on the average person's life," said study author Ronald Kessler, a psychiatric epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School, noting that the disorder remained an underappreciated problem.

Insomnia affects productivity

US workers, he added, are not in fact missing work due to insomnia – they still go to work, but get less done.

"In an information-based economy, it's difficult to find a condition that has a greater effect on productivity," he said.

The study results were obtained from a national sampling of 7,428 employees, which was part of the larger American Insomnia Study (AIS) conducted in 2008 and 2009, also led by Kessler.

Insomnia more prevalent in women

Estimated prevalence of insomnia from the AIS sample came to 23.2% among employees, and was discovered to be significantly lower among workers aged 65 and older – some 14.3%. Insomnia was more prevalent among working women, 27.1% than males, 19.7%, according to the figures.

"Now that we know how much insomnia costs the American workplace, the question for employers is whether the price of intervention is worthwhile," said Kessler.

The average annual cost for insomnia treatment range from about R1 200 for generic sleeping pills, to upwards of R8 437 for behavioural therapy noted the study.

(Sapa, September 2011)

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Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

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