Individuals With Sleep Disorders Incur Significantly Higher Health Care Costs

Skylar Kenney, Assistant Editor

Individuals affected by sleep disorders accumulated approximately $7000 more in overall health care expenses per year compared to those without a sleep disorder.

Sleep disorders are associated with significantly higher rates of health care utilization, placing an additional $94.9 billion in costs each year to the United States health care system, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

The researchers found the number of medical visits and prescriptions filled were nearly doubled in people with sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea and insomnia, compared to similar people without these conditions. Additionally, affected patients were also more likely to visit the emergency department and have more comorbid medical conditions.

The study examined differences in health expenditures in similar patients with and without a sleep disorder diagnosis, as determined by their ICD-10 diagnosis code. The researchers used data from the 2018 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, a nationally representative survey of more than 22,000 Americans, administered by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

They found 5.6% of respondents had at least 1 sleep disorder, which translated to an estimated 13.6 million US adults. This likely represents a significant underestimate, according to the authors, as insomnia alone is thought to affect 10% to 20% of the population.

The individuals affected by sleep disorders accumulated approximately $7000 more in overall health care expenses per year compared to those without a sleep disorder, resulting in approximately 60% more in annual costs. This equates to an estimated $94.9 billion in health care costs per year attributable to sleep disorders.

Sleep disorders can have a number of adverse health effects, according to the authors of the study. Individuals with certain sleep disorders experience decreased daytime functionality related to drowsiness, mental fog, and an increased risk of motor vehicle accidents.

Obstructive sleep apnea, one of the most common sleep disorders, can increase the risk for neurocognitive issues if left untreated, such as difficulty concentrating and mood disorders. It can also result in cardiovascular conditions, including heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, and irregular heart rhythms.

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

REFERENCE

Sleep disorders tally $94.9 billion in health care costs each year [news release]. EurekAlert; May 7, 2021. Accessed May 10, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-05/meae-sdt050721.php