Insomnia and workplace productivity loss among young working adults: a prospective observational study of clinical sleep disorders in a community cohort

Amy C. Reynolds, Pieter Coenen, Bastien Lechat, Leon Straker, Juliana Zabatiero, Kath J. Maddison, Robert J. Adams, Peter Eastwood

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Objective: To examine associations between three clinically significant sleep disorders (chronic insomnia, obstructive sleep apnoea, restless legs syndrome) and workplace productivity losses among young Australian adults. 

Design, setting: Prospective, observational study; 22-year follow-up of participants in the longitudinal birth cohort Raine Study (Perth, Western Australia). 

Participants: Currently employed 22-year-old Raine Study participants who underwent in-laboratory sleep disorder screening for moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnoea (apnoea–hypopnea index of more than fifteen events/hour or obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome) and were assessed for insomnia and restless legs syndrome using validated measures. 

Main outcome measures: Total workplace productivity loss over twelve months, assessed with the World Health Organization Health and Work Performance Questionnaire. 

Results: Of 1235 contactable 22-year-old Raine Study cohort members, 554 people (44.9%; 294 women [53%]) underwent overnight polysomnography, completed the baseline sleep questionnaire, and completed at least three quarterly workplace productivity assessments. One or more clinically significant sleep disorders were identified in 120 participants (21.7%); 90 participants had insomnia (17%), thirty clinically significant obstructive sleep apnoea (5.4%), and two restless legs syndrome (0.4%). Seventeen people (14% of those with sleep disorders) had previously been diagnosed with a sleep disturbance by a health professional, including fourteen with insomnia. Median total workplace productivity loss was greater for participants with sleep disorders (164 hours/year; interquartile range [IQR], 0–411 hours/year) than for those without sleep disorders (30 hours/year; IQR, 0–202 hours/year); total workplace productivity loss was 40% greater for participants with sleep disorders (adjusted incidence rate ratio, 1.40; bias-corrected and accelerated 95% confidence interval, 1.10–1.76). The estimated population total productivity loss (weighted for disorder prevalence) was 28 644 hours per 1000 young workers per year, primarily attributable to insomnia (28 730 hours/1000 workers/year). 

Conclusion: Insomnia is a risk factor for workplace productivity loss in young workers. Tailored interventions are needed to identify and manage sleep disorders, particularly as most of the sleep disorders detected in the Raine Study had not previously been diagnosed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-112
Number of pages6
JournalMedical Journal of Australia
Issue number3
Early online date25 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023


  • Accidents, occupational
  • Occupational health
  • Sleep apnea
  • Sleep wake disorders


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