Thursday, January 15, 2009

Sleep, Colds and the Costs of Insomnia

Those following this blog will know I have an interest in sleep (see here). Some might think this is a bizarre interest to have. But I don't think it is when one considers the fact that we spend approximately 1/3 of our lives sleeping. Why do we sleep? And how do our sleeping habits impact our health (for better or worse)? I think these are fascinating questions.

I came across two new sleep studies to add to my growing collection. Do you feel tired? Do you have a cold? Well this study in the Archives of Internal Medicine suggests that it is possible that sleep plays a causal role in cold susceptibility.

And what, you might also wonder, are the economic burdens of insomnia? The latest issue of the journal Sleep has this study which finds:

The total annual cost of insomnia in the province of Quebec was estimated at $6.6 billion (Cdn$). This includes direct costs associated with insomnia-motivated health-care consultations ($191.2 million) and transportation for these consultations ($36.6 million), prescription medications ($16.5 million), over the-counter products ($1.8 million) and alcohol used as a sleep aid ($339.8 million). Annual indirect costs associated with insomnia-related absenteeism were estimated at $970.6 million, with insomnia-related productivity losses estimated at $5.0 billion. The average annual per-person costs (direct and indirect combined) were $5,010 for individuals with insomnia syndrome, $1,431 for individuals presenting with symptoms, and $421 for good sleepers.

This study suggests that the economic burden of insomnia is very high, with the largest proportion of all expenses (76%) attributable to insomnia-related work absences and reduced productivity. As the economic burden of untreated insomnia is much higher than that of treating insomnia, future clinical trials should evaluate the cost-benefits, cost-utility, and cost-effectiveness of insomnia therapies.