Insomnia reduces productivity for young workers.

Insomnia reduces productivity for young workers.

The Impact of Sleep Disorders on Young People

The importance of a good night’s sleep is often emphasized, but a new study from Australia has shed light on the dangers and unsettling issues associated with sleep disorders in young people. This research has revealed links between sleep disorders and daytime drowsiness, mental health problems, and motor vehicle accidents. Furthermore, it has found that a significant number, up to 20%, of younger individuals are affected by sleep disorders.

The study, led by Amy Reynolds, an associate professor in clinical sleep health at Flinders University in Adelaide, examined 554 22-year-old workers who were part of the multigenerational Raine Study. The Raine Study focuses on lifelong health and quality of life in Western Australia. Reynolds explains, “The Raine Study previously showed that about 20% of the young adults surveyed had a common clinical sleep disorder. We wanted to know how much of an impact these disorders have on workers in their workplaces.”

The results of the study were eye-opening. Workplace productivity losses were up to 40% greater in 22-year-olds with clinical sleep disorders compared to their peers without sleep disorders. In fact, this is equivalent to a total workplace productivity loss of about four weeks for young individuals with clinically significant sleep disorders, compared to less than one week for those without. These findings emphasize just how prevalent sleep disorders are in young adults and the impact they have on their workplaces.

Reynolds highlights the changing nature of sleep disorders across the lifespan. While obstructive sleep apnea becomes more prevalent in middle age, insomnia is the more common problem among young workers. Insomnia is driving productivity loss, as many individuals are present at work but not fully functioning. This phenomenon, known as presenteeism, significantly contributes to the overall productivity decline.

To address this issue, senior co-author Robert Adams, a Flinders professor in respiratory and sleep medicine, alongside his colleagues, are focusing on providing primary care doctors with access to evidence-based care and resources for sleep disorders. One example of effective intervention is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which can reduce the need for sleeping medications or other interventions that only offer short-term benefits.

The study findings were published in The Medical Journal of Australia on July 10, 2023. This research serves as a wake-up call, urging healthcare professionals and society as a whole to prioritize sleep health among young people. By addressing sleep disorders and improving sleep quality, we can enhance the well-being and productivity of future generations.


Key Findings:

  • Sleep disorders in young people have been linked to daytime drowsiness, mental health issues, and motor vehicle accidents.
  • Up to 20% of younger individuals are affected by sleep disorders.
  • Workplace productivity losses are up to 40% greater among young adults with clinical sleep disorders compared to their peers without sleep disorders.

Sleep Disorders and Workplace Productivity

The study conducted by Flinders University focused on 22-year-old workers and found a disturbingly high prevalence of clinical sleep disorders. These disorders were associated with significant productivity losses in the workplace, illustrating the profound impact of sleep on young individuals’ ability to function and perform.

In terms of sleep disorders, insomnia was found to be the most common issue among young workers. Individuals suffering from insomnia may experience difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep, or poor sleep quality, leading to fatigue, impaired concentration, and reduced overall performance. This explains why presenteeism, being physically present at work but performing at a suboptimal level, becomes a major contributor to the decline in workplace productivity.

Sleep Disorders Across the Lifespan

The study also highlighted the changing nature of sleep disorders across different stages of life. While insomnia prevails among young adults, obstructive sleep apnea becomes more prevalent as individuals age. Obstructive sleep apnea is characterized by repeated interruptions in breathing during sleep, often leading to fragmented sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Understanding these variations in sleep disorders is crucial for tailoring effective interventions and promoting healthier sleep habits from early on. By addressing sleep disorders in young people and providing appropriate education and resources, we can improve their overall well-being and long-term productivity.

The Role of Primary Care Doctors and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

As the study findings suggest, supporting young people in receiving evidence-based care for sleep disorders is vital. Primary care doctors play a crucial role in identifying and treating sleep disorders, as they regularly interact with patients and are well-positioned to detect any signs or symptoms.

One intervention highlighted by the study is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This form of therapy has shown great potential in addressing sleep disorders among young individuals. CBT focuses on improving sleep hygiene, addressing thoughts and behaviors associated with insomnia, and establishing healthy sleep patterns. By promoting CBT and reducing the reliance on sleeping medications or other short-term interventions, we can empower young people to take control of their sleep health and optimize their long-term well-being.


In Conclusion

Sleep disorders among young people have far-reaching consequences, from impaired productivity in the workplace to increased risks of accidents and compromised mental health. This study from Flinders University in Australia sheds light on the pervasive nature of sleep disorders and emphasizes the urgent need for intervention.

By providing access to evidence-based care and resources, primary care doctors can play a vital role in reducing workplace productivity losses associated with sleep disorders. Cognitive behavioral therapy, in particular, offers promising results in managing sleep disorders among young individuals. By addressing sleep health early on, we can empower young people to achieve optimal well-being and productivity, ensuring a healthier and more successful future for all.