Sleep Disorder Costly for Sufferer, Society
Sleepy woman yawning.
Credit: Dreamstime

A Danish study of the sleep disorder hypersomnia (excessive sleep) finds the syndrome has far-reaching consequences for both the individual and society as a whole.

Sleep researchers at the University of Copenhagen and the Danish Institute for Health Services Research studied the disorder, characterized by excessive tiredness during the day. Those who suffer from the disorder are extremely sleepy and need to take a nap several times a day.

This can occur at work, during a meal, in the middle of a conversation or behind the steering wheel.

Hypersomnia is often a symptom of sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, violent snoring and/or obesity-related breathing difficulties, said researcher Poul Jennum, Ph.D., a professor of clinical neurophysiology at the University of Copenhagen.

Previous studies have indicated that these sleep disturbances can have a big social and economic impact on sufferers. The new research shows that people who snore violently (especially those who suffer from sleep apnea), narcolepsy and obesity-related breathing difficulties use health services more frequently, take more medicine, and are more frequently unemployed.

The more serious the sleep disorder, the higher the socioeconomic cost.

This study is the first to show the actual socioeconomic consequences of untreated hypersomnia, Jennum said.

“We have gotten better in the last few years at diagnosing and treating hypersomnia and the underlying diseases, ” he said.

“This can be a help to patients because we know that there are a lot of people who go around incredibly tired during the day who do suffer from hypersomnia, but have never been diagnosed or discovered the reason for their tiredness. The question is whether their tiredness is owing to narcolepsy, or is the fact that they sleep badly at night owing to some other reason?”

Each person who snores violently, suffers from narcolepsy or hypersomnia is calculated to cost Danish society an annual figure of 10,223 euros (about $13,500) and 2190 euros ($2,880) respectively. The figures refer to the direct cost of frequent doctor’s visits, hospital admissions or medicine expenses and indirect costs in the form of lost working hours.

In addition to this, costs are also incurred in the form of state benefits. The researchers demonstrated that hypersomnia patients received state benefits more often than healthy subjects and took state subsidized medicine more frequently.

The study has highlighted the high costs that have arisen, especially those borne by society, which are largely due to frequent absences from the work force and lower incomes among the sick.

 ”It’s clear to us that those who suffer from hypersomnia are more often ill and where hypersomnia is chronic, the economic costs to society can be quite considerable,” Jennum said. “That’s why it is essential that people with the disorder have access to a system of treatment – otherwise the illness can affect their education, ability to work and thus their economic circumstances and health.”