Do you have difficulty falling asleep, tossing and turning for a long while before finally drifting off? Are you someone who wakes up in the middle of the night, thoughts racing in a way that makes it hard to fall back asleep? Maybe you’re someone who sleeps for a few hours but wakes early, unable to complete a full night of sleep?
These are all signs of insomnia, the most common sleep disorder among adults. As much as 40% of the US population suffers from insomnia at some point, and 15% or more of US adults grapple with chronic insomnia, where symptoms persist for a month or more at a time. It’s all too common for people to shrug off their episodes of insomnia, to do their best to function and cope with daytime tiredness, fatigue, and mental distraction that result from sleeping poorly. This kind of “power through” strategy is rampant in our busy world, but there’s no real escape from the consequences that insomnia can bring. At an individual level, insomnia raises risks to health, compromises quality of life, and impairs ability to function at one’s best at work and in personal relationships.
There are also broader, collective consequences to society that come from insomnia. This new study attempted to quantify the economic costs of the sleep disorder, and found that insomnia is associated with an estimated $31 billion in workplace costs resulting from accidents and errors that happen on the job.
Researchers analyzed data from 4,991 adults, all of whom were employed and had health insurance. Using a diagnostic questionnaire, researchers evaluated participants for insomnia, as well as collecting information on 18 other chronic health conditions that might affect workplace performance. They examined the incidence of insomnia and these other health problems to determine a possible link between the insomnia and workplace errors and accidents. To narrow in on the financial cost of insomnia-related problems in the workplace, researchers inquired specifically about accidents or mistakes on the job that resulted in “damage or work disruption with a value of $500 or more.” They found that a link between insomnia and workplace accidents or errors was both common and costly. Among the study results:
This is not the first study to assess the increased risk of insomnia-related accidents, or their costs:
Rates of insomnia are high across both the developed and the developing world. Here in the United States, nearly one-third of workers are getting by on no more than 6 hours of sleep per night. We’re living in an age where sleep is challenged by the very technological advancements that are supposed to make life easier and more streamlined. Clearly, it’s time to stop shrugging off the consequences of insomnia and other sleep disorders, consequences that include an incredibly high price tag, both in dollars and in health.
Michael J. Breus, PhD
The Sleep Doctor™