Insomnia affects young worker productivity

Daytime drowsiness, mental health issues and even road accidents are all connected to sleep disorders, leading experts to examine workplace productivity losses among as many as one-in-five younger Australians affected by sleep disorders, in particular insomnia.

The new Flinders University study used data from the West Australian longitudinal Raine Study Generation 2 cohort, which includes 554 workers aged 22 years, and found significant workplace productivity losses among young Australian adults, primarily caused by insomnia.

The new study showed that total workplace productivity loss was up to 40% greater among 22-year-olds with clinical sleep disorders compared to their peers with no sleep disorders.

Flinders University Associate Professor Amy Reynolds, from the FHMRI Sleep Research group.

“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,” says Flinders University Associate Professor in Clinical Sleep Health Amy Reynolds, who led the study published by the Medical Journal of Australia.

“The Raine study previously showed that about 20% of the young adults surveyed had a common clinical sleep disorder, so this work eventuated because we wanted to know how much of an impact these disorders have on workers in their workplaces.

“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.

“By middle age, it’s obstructive sleep apnoea that’s more prevalent, so it does change across the lifespan.

“But in young workers it is insomnia which is more common, rather than other sleep problems, and is driving productivity loss.”

Associate Professor Reynolds, a provisional psychologist with the Insomnia Treatment Program at Flinders, says the productivity loss is largely driven by ‘presenteeism’.

“So, they’re at work, but they’re just not working to their best capacity or potential.”

Supporting management of sleep disorders is a priority for researchers at the Flinders Health and Medical Research Institute Sleep Research group formerly the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health

Professor Robert Adams, Medical Director of FHMRI Sleep Health at Flinders University.

Senior co-author Professor in Respiratory and Sleep Medicine Robert Adams and colleagues are focusing on giving GPs in primary care the ability to access appropriate, evidence-based care and resources for sleep disorders across all sectors of the population.

Supporting young people to access CBTi (cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia), for example, can reduce the need for prescribing sleeping tablets or other interventions which may not tackle long-term sleep problems.

The Australian Management of Sleep Apnea and Insomnia in Primary Care (MOSIP) trial based at Flinders University is seeking to support GPs to manage two of the most common sleep disorders – insomnia and obstructive sleep apnoea, or OSA – which affect more than 4 million Australians and costing at least $66 billion annually.

Read more in the article – Insomnia and workplace productivity loss among young working adults: a prospective observational study of clinical sleep disorders in a community cohort (2023) by Amy C Reynolds, Pieter Coenen, Bastien Lechat, Leon Straker, Juliana Zabatiero, Kath J Maddison, Robert J Adams and Peter Eastwood – published in the Medical Journal of Australia DOI: 10.5694/mja2.52014

Acknowledgements: The Flinders sleep researchers acknowledge the support of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and Raine Study managed by the University of Western Australia Centre for Sleep Science, Curtin University, Telethon Kids Institute, Women and Infants Research Foundation, Edith Cowan University, Murdoch University,  University of Notre Dame Australia, and the Raine Medical Research Foundation. Funding was also generously provided by Safe Work Australia.

Amy Reynolds has received research funding from the Sleep Health Foundation, Flinders Foundation, Compumedics and Sydney Trains, and speaker and consultancy fees from Teva Pharmaceuticals, Sealy Australia, and the Sleep Health Foundation for work unrelated to this study. Kath Maddison (University of WA) has received research funding from Nyxoah, Incannex Healthcare, and Zelira Therapeutics, and speaker and consultancy fees from the Sleep Health Foundation, Melius Consulting, and Invicta Medical for work unrelated to this study. Robert Adams has received research funding from the NHMRC, Sleep Health Foundation, Flinders Foundation, ResMed Foundation, the Hospital Research Foundation, Philips, Sydney Trains and the Australian Government for work unrelated to this study. 


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