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Sleep Disorders Cost U.S. Health Care System Nearly $95 Billion Per Year

TUESDAY, May 11, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Sleep problems cost America's health care system nearly $95 billion a year and raise the cost of health care by 60%, a new study finds.

Researchers discovered the number of doctor visits and prescriptions was nearly doubled in people with sleep problems such as sleep apnea and insomnia, compared to people without these conditions. People with sleep problems were also more likely to visit emergency rooms and have more medical conditions.

"Our estimates are likely low, considering we know there are a large number of patients not yet diagnosed with a disorder like sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome and insomnia," said researcher Dr. Neil Bhattacharyya, an ear, nose and throat doctor at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Hospital in Boston.

"If we as a country continue this pattern, this huge burden to the health care system will grow and affect patient care for everyone," he said in a hospital news release.

For the study, Bhattacharyya and his colleagues looked at differences in health costs among some 22,000 U.S. patients with and without a sleep disorder.

They found almost 6% of respondents had at least one sleep disorder, nearly 14 million U.S. adults. But this is likely an underestimate, as insomnia alone affects 10% to 20% of the population.

These people cost about $7,000 more in overall health care expenses per year compared with those without a sleep disorder.

Also, patients with sleep disorders have more than 16 office visits and nearly 40 drug prescriptions per year, compared with nearly nine visits and 22 prescriptions for those without a sleep disorder.

Non-health care costs from time off from work, school or other social obligations, and decreased productivity linked with symptoms, only add to the cost to society, the researchers noted.

'The degree to which sleep disorders increased costs and visits and prescriptions was somewhat surprising and suggests that sleep disorders and the effects of poor sleep quality may be underappreciated," said researcher Dr. Phillip Huyett, director of Sleep Surgery at Mass Eye and Ear.

"The importance of high-quality sleep is strongly associated with daytime function and long-term health issues, and as our study shows there are financial ramifications as well," he said in the release.

Getting a diagnosis at the sign of sleep problems can lead to an effective treatment.

"Fortunately, studies have demonstrated that treating certain sleep disorders effectively reduces health care utilization and costs. Therefore, sleep issues should not be ignored. Greater recognition of sleep disorders and an early referral to a sleep specialist are essential," Huyett said. "Your sleep is important, and if there's an issue with your sleep, seek help for it."

The report was published May 10 in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

More information

For more on sleep problems, see the Sleep Foundation.

SOURCE: Massachusetts Eye and Ear Hospital, news release, May 10, 2021

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