Sleep disturbances increase the risk of work disability and may slow the return to work process, a new study, conducted by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in collaboration with the universities of Turku and London, has revealed.
Sleep disturbances include difficulties initiating sleep, intermittent and non-restorative sleep, and waking up too early.
The occurrence of these disturbances was studied in 56,732 public sector employees in Finland. During the three-year follow-up, 7 per cent of them were incapacitated for work.
The associations of sleep disturbances with returning to work were studied in employees who were on long-term sickness leave or retired on disability pension.
Just over one-fifth or 22 per cent of the employees studied reported sleep disturbances on at least five nights a week whereas 26 per cent reported sleep disturbances on 2 nights a week.
The risk of work disability due to mental health problems was elevated both in employees reporting mild and in those with severe sleep disturbances.
Sixty per cent of the employees who were incapacitated returned to work within two years.
Among men whose incapacity was due to mental health diseases, both mild and severe sleep disturbances predicted a slower return to work.
The results of the study have been published in the latest issue of the Sleep journal.