Sleep Disorders Costing Businesses Billions Worldwide
Sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea and insomnia, are much more than a personal “bedroom” issue.
According to research at the University of Bergen (UiB) in Bergen, Norway, it is estimated that the repercussions of sleep disorders cost businesses at least $18 billion a year in lost productivity and avoidable accidents.
And a September study by the Academy of Sleep Medicine found that insomnia alone costs the U.S. $63.2 billion annually.
That study also stated that insomnia is costing the average U.S. worker 11.3 days, or $2,280 in lost productivity every year. Nationally, the total cost is 252.7 days and $63.2 billion.
These and other studies show how common insomnia and other sleep disorders are, and how much they affect work, says Borge Sivertsen, professor at UiB’s Department of Clinical Psychology and senior researcher at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. “When you feel tired and indisposed, your performance at work suffers,” says Sivertsen.
Shift workers and drivers at high risk
Most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep a night, and insufficient, quality sleep can inhibit cognitive ability, causes a person to think more slowly, make more mistakes, have trouble remembering things and impairs motor skills, leading to more accidents.
One of the most common sleep disorders, known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), causes fragmented sleep, and is caused by an obstruction of airflow. As a result, low blood oxygen levels lead to myriad problems. For people with sleep apnea, the combination of disturbed sleep and oxygen starvation may lead to hypertension, heart disease and mood and memory problems.
Sleep disorders are especially dangerous for shift workers and drivers, and both groups have an increased risk for both disorders. OSA affects drivers similarly to being legally drunk, making them four to six times more likely to have a motor vehicle accident. The Saint Francis Medical Center estimates that OSA causes at least 310,000 collisions a year, costing nearly $16 billion.
“The disease is a major cause of the many traffic accidents on American roads,” Sivertsen says.
Insomnia linked to over medicating
Sivertsen’s studies also show that insomnia sufferers may be overmedicating themselves, and sedatives can cause users to feel less rested during the daytime.
“When you feel bad, you will try every treatment there is,” says Sivertsen. “There is an overconsumption of alternative methods amongst insomnia sufferers. They often consume too much alcohol and visit their GPs, psychologists, physiotherapists, and chiropractors more often.” As a result, sleep disorder sufferers are often major health care users, which leads to an increase in social costs.
Sivertsen continued, “Sleep medication may work in the short term, but after six weeks of use we noticed a decrease in deep sleep. Sleep may be uninterrupted, but you may not necessarily get quality sleep.” Sivertsen suggests that insomnia treatment become more accessible, and to include cognitive behavioral therapy.
Advice for businesses
Sleep apnea and other sleep disorders increase the risk of motor vehicle crashes and reduces productivity. But businesses do not have to live with the lost productivity, higher healthcare costs and increased accidents caused by employees with sleep disorders. Screening employees for sleep disorders can identify those at risk, and allow them to seek treatment before serious consequences occur.
Read the UiB study, “Sleep problems cost billions.”
>> back to top
Comments are closed