Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Workplace Disability & The Value of Sleep

The business cost of insomnia goes beyond loss of employee productivity. Workers with regular sleep disturbances go on disability more often and take longer to return to work.

A study published in the October, 2010 issue of the journal SLEEP investigated how insomnia impacts workplace health. Researchers found sleep disturbances predicted later workplace disability for mental disorders, physical illnesses and musculoskeletal disorders.

The study followed more than 56,000 active public employees in Finland for more than three years. Each of the government and public hospital employees was surveyed about sleep disturbances and preexisting health conditions at the start of the study. The authors used national records to identify which employees went on disability during the follow-up after three years.

Workers who had existing medical conditions, used prescribed pain killers or regularly performed manual labor were most likely to report severe sleep disturbance which occurred more 5-7 days per week.

Over the course of the study, 7 percent of the employees went on disability. About 1 in 3 never returned to work. Statistical analysis shows people who reported sleep disturbances had a higher likelihood of going on work disability and not returning to work. The results were adjusted for complicating factors such as shift work, depression and preexisting health problems.

Worker disability is only one of the business costs of sleep disturbances. Insomnia can also make you worse at your job.

Sometimes your job may be the source of the sleep problems. In 2009 the Sleep Education Blog reported on studies that tied high stress work and low social support at the workplace to long-term insomnia.

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