Sleep disturbances increase the risk of work disability and may slow the return to work process. This is especially true in cases where work disability is due to mental disorders or musculoskeletal diseases. These results come from a recent study conducted by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in collaboration with the universities of Turku and London.
The research is being conducted as part of two major research projects on social capital in the workplace (Kunta10) and on well-being in the hospital workplace. The follow-up study is part of the Academy of Finland Research Programme on The Future of Work and Well-being (WORK) and the Responding to Public Health Challenges Research Programme (SALVE).
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. Data on work disability and sickness absences lasting 90 days or longer, disability pensions and deaths were obtained from national registers. 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. A further 26 per cent reported sleep disturbances on 2