For Young Workers, Insomnia Cuts Productivity
A new study from Australia tied some dangerous and unsettling issues to sleep disorders in young people.
The research found links to daytime drowsiness, mental health issues and motor vehicle accidents and noted that as many as 20% of younger people are affected by sleep disorders.
Workplace productivity losses were up to 40% greater among 22-year-olds with clinical sleep disorders compared to their peers with no sleep disorders.
“This is equivalent to total workplace productivity loss [followed up on multiple occasions across 12 months] of about four weeks for young people with clinically significant sleep disorders, compared with less than one week for those without,” said study leader Amy Reynolds, an associate professor in clinical sleep health at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia.
The study drew on 554 22-year-old workers who were part of the multigenerational Raine Study, examining lifelong health and quality of life in Western Australia.
“The Raine study previously showed that about 20% of the young adults surveyed had a common clinical sleep disorder. … We wanted to know how much of an impact these disorders have on workers in their workplaces,” Reynolds said in a university news release.
“The take-home message is just how prevalent sleep disorders are in young adults, and that these disorders are having an impact on our young adults and their workplaces," she said.
That changes across the life span, Reynolds said, with obstructive sleep apnea becoming more prevalent in middle age.
“In young workers it is insomnia which is more common, rather than other sleep problems, and is driving productivity loss,” she said.
Presenteeism, which occurs when workers are not fully functioning, is driving much of that loss, Reynolds said.
“So, they're at work, but they're just not working to their best capacity or potential,” she said.
Senior co-author Robert Adams, a Flinders professor in respiratory and sleep medicine, and colleagues are focusing on giving primary care doctors the ability to access evidence-based care and resources for sleep disorders, according to the study.
He said supporting young people to receive cognitive behavioral therapy is one example that can reduce the need for sleeping medications or other interventions that have only short-term benefits.
The findings were published July 10 in The Medical Journal of Australia.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on insomnia.
SOURCE: Flinders University, news release, July 11, 2023
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