Saturday, January 3, 2009

How Much Does Insomnia Cost?

Insomnia is the most common sleep complaint. The burden of insomnia often includes anxiety and frustration. It also involves a high economic cost.

A study in the Jan. 1 issue of the journal Sleep examines the economic burden of insomnia. The study found that the indirect costs of untreated insomnia are much greater than the direct costs of treating it. The specific results may surprise you.

The study shows that the highest cost of insomnia is in lost hours of productivity at work. This accounts for 76 percent of all insomnia costs. The study estimates that a person with insomnia loses a whopping 27.6 days worth of productivity each year.

The second-highest cost of insomnia is attributed to absences from work. The study estimates that people with insomnia miss 4.36 days of work per year because of the disorder.

What about the direct costs of treating insomnia? Again the results are surprising. The study found that the highest direct cost is related to using alcohol as a sleep aid. Alcohol accounts for five percent of all insomnia costs.

(By the way: Alcohol is a terrible sleep aid. It may make you sleepy at first. But it will lead to disrupted sleep during the night.)

Consultations with a doctor account for about three percent of all insomnia costs. In the study less than one percent of the total annual cost of insomnia is related to prescription medications.

Here it is important to put the results in context. The study was conducted in Quebec, Canada. The authors report that Quebec’s centralized health-care system keeps medical costs low. The study also states that most medications used for sleep in Canada are inexpensive generic drugs.

Yet it is clear that the overall economic impact of insomnia is great. So what do you think? Does insomnia cause you to underperform at work?

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