Insomnia is costly to the American workplace

Posted Sept. 08, 2011, at 9:31 a.m.

Insomnia is costing the country 252.7 days of work, or 11.3 days per worker, according to a new study in the September issue of the journal Sleep.

The cost is $63.2 billion in lost productivity, or $2,280 per worker.

The results, funded by pharmaceutical companies, come from a national sampling of 7,428 employees and provide a clearer picture that existing estimates, which were derived from smaller samples or estimates based on those being treated for insomnia.

“We were shocked by the enormous impact insomnia has on the average person’s life,” said lead author Ronald C. Kessler, a psychiatric epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School’s department of health care policy, in a statement. “It’s an underappreciated problem. Americans are not missing work because of insomnia. They are still going to their jobs but accomplishing less because they’re tired. In an information-based economy, it’s difficult to find a condition that has a greater effect on productivity.”

The costs, he said, may justify screening and treatment programs for workers. Now, employers mostly ignore insomnia because it’s not considered an illness.

Study authors said the average cost of treating the condition ranges from $200 annually for a generic sleeping pill to $1,200 for behavior therapy.

They estimated just more than 23 percent of workers have insomnia, and prevalence was lower among older workers and higher among women than men.

For more information, go to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine website’s sleep blog (http://sleepeducation.blogspot.com/search/label/insomnia) or the Associated Professional Sleep Society website (http://www.aasmnet.org/).

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