Over one in four Aussies may be taking a sick day every month thanks to poor sleep, according to a new study.
Commissioned by the Sleep Health Foundation and published in the journal Sleep Health, researchers found a link between sleep and days off work among the 551 participants.
Senior author of the study and Sleep Health Foundation spokesperson Professor Robert Adams was surprised to find insomnia or snoring doesn’t often cause the sleep problems that make people take a day off work.
“One in four Australian workers may be missing at least one day a week of work as a consequence of sleep disturbance or disruption, even when we take into account the potential for clinical sleep disorders like insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA),” he said.
“Put simply, we found that if people think their sleep quality or quantity is reduced, they are more likely to have a day off work.”
Sick days are estimated to cost Australia $32.5 billion annually in lost productivity and associated costs.
Professor Adams and colleagues at CQ University Australia, University of Adelaide and Flinders University set out to find out what role sleep - one of the three pillars of good health along with diet and exercise - plays in the country’s sick day statistics.
“There is ample evidence showing poor sleep is linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and inflammation so it’s plausible that poor sleep may also contribute to higher rates work absenteeism,” he said.
“We wanted to see if this was the case in Australian workers.”
Participants were asked to detail frequency of sick days, the quantity and quality of their sleep, and daytime sleepiness symptoms they might experience.
Diagnosed sleep disorders were also recorded, along with indicators of possible sleep disorders. Of the nationally-representative sample, 27% reported missing one or more day of work in the past month due to a sleep problem.
Those taking sickies tended to be younger, tertiary educated, or under financial stress.
Men and women were equally affected. Diagnosed depression was the most common condition reported by those taking sick days.
The study showed a very strong relationship between insomnia and OSA and sick days.
However, even when excluding people with sleep disorders, results showed simply feeling that you weren’t getting enough sleep may be enough to keep workers at home.