A new study at the University of Copenhagen and the Danish Institute for Health Services Research has examined the socio-economic consequences of the sleep disorder hypersomnia, revealing that it has far-reaching consequences for both the individual and society as a whole.
People suffering from the disorder are extremely sleepy and need to take a nap several times a day.
Hypersomnia is often a symptom of sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, sleep apnoea, restless leg syndrome, violent snoring and/or obesity-related breathing difficulties, explains Professor of Clinical Neurophysiology Poul Jennum from the Center for Healthy Aging at the University of Copenhagen.
The study shows that people who e.g. snore violently but especially those who suffer from sleep apnoea, narcolepsy and obesity-related breathing difficulties use the health services more frequently, take more medicine, and are more frequently unemployed. The more serious the sleep disorder the higher the socio-economic cost.
The researchers demonstrated that hypersomnia patients received state benefits more often than healthy subjects and took state subsidised medicine more frequently. The study has highlighted the high costs that have arisen, especially those born by society and which is largely due to frequent absence from the work force and lower incomes among the sick.
They also found an increase in the intake of medication, a higher rate of hospital admissions, and 30pc more unemployment when the disease went undiagnosed and untreated. There is, however, significant potential for better diagnosis and treatment.
"We have gotten better in the last few years at diagnosing and treating hypersomnia and the underlying diseases, "explained Poul Jennum.
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. It`s clear that those who suffer from hypersomnia are more often ill and where hypersomnia is chronic, the economic costs to society can be quite considerable.
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.
The study has been published in the December 2010 edition of Acta Neurological Scandinavia .