Study Demonstrates Link Between Sleep Disturbances and Work Disability

Sleep Deprived WorkerIn a study conducted by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Heath in collaboration with the University of Turku and London, a direct link was demonstrated in relation to sleep disturbances and work disability. It was found that sleep disturbances increase the risk of work disability and may also delay ability to return to work after an injury.

The study classified sleep difficulties as: difficulties initiating sleep, intermittent sleep, and waking up too early. The occurrence of these disturbances was studied in 56,732 public sector employees in Finland. The associations of sleep disturbances with returning to work was studied in employees who were on long-term sickness leave or retired on disability pension.

Just over 22% of the employees studied reported sleep disturbances on at least five nights per week. An additional 26% reported sleep disturbances 2-4 nights per week. In the former group, the risk of work disability for any reason was one and a half times greater than in employees who reported sleep disturbances once per week or less.

The risk of work disability due to mental health problems or musculoskeletal disorders was elevated in employees reporting mild and in employees reporting with severe sleep disturbances.

In relation to the return to work process: 60% of the employees who were disabled returned to work within two years. The risk of a delayed return to work was higher among those whose work disability was due to musculoskeletal disorders.

Journal Reference:

1. Salo P; Oksanen T; Sivertsen B; Hall M; Pentti J; Virtanen M; Vahtera J; Kivimäki M. Sleep disturbances as a predictor of cause-specific work disability and delayed return to work. Sleep, 2010;33(10):1323-1331