Sickies and poor sleep linked: study

Aaron Bunch
(Australian Associated Press)

Poor sleep and sick days are cosy bedfellows with more than one in four Australians taking a day off a month because they’re too tired, researchers say.

The study of 551 working adults found 27 per cent missed one or more days of work in the past month because of sleep problems.

“Surprisingly, we discovered that you don’t need to be an insomniac or a severe snorer to have sleep problems that stop you going to work,” Sleep Health Foundation researcher Professor Robert Adams said.

Young well-educated men and women, many experiencing financial stress, are taking the most days off, with work demands appearing to be the main driver.

But their lifestyles should not be discounted either, Prof Adams said, with young people “trying to pack an awful lot into their week day life”.

“We certainly know the younger generation sleep a lot more on the weekends, they sleep in more as weekend catch up sleep,” he said.

This imbalance and their busy lifestyle, coupled with work demands, was causing sleep problems for the under 45s other generations hadn’t reported.

The study found working late into the night, along with computer, tablet and smartphone use, were the main disruptors of quality sleep, although financial stress was also reported as a factor leading to poor sleep.

Prof Adams said this cumulative effect of overwork, too much play and financial stress not only had the risk of becoming a vicious cycle resulting in a continued lack of quality sleep, it also resulted in grumpier, less resilient workers who were increasingly unable to cope with stress.

“Those sort of people tend to end up taking time off or make errors at work or are less productive,” he said.

Although employers can’t be held responsible for people’s lifestyles and behaviour, with $32.5 billion lost each year to sick days, the workplace may be the right place to begin talking about it.

“People need to start thinking about sleep health and recognise along with good diet and exercise, and not smoking and moderating alcohol intake, sleep health may well be an important factor,” Prof Adams said.


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