Between trouble falling asleep and chronic insomnia, 40 per cent of adults in Canada experience sleep issues, according to information presented at Benefits Canada’s Calgary Benefits Summit in April.

“As plan sponsors, we should be very concerned,” says Josée Dixon, senior vice-president of group and business insurance at Desjardins Insurance, during a presentation at the April 27 event in Calgary.

“It has direct consequences for the workplace, particularly in terms of safety, productivity and group benefits costs. Sleep is not a luxury. It’s a necessity, as vital as eating, drinking and exercise,” she said, noting sleep disorders exert a negative impact on people’s health and, if untreated, can lead to chronic illnesses such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, depression and obesity.

In terms of productivity, Dixon added, not sleeping well can lead to a reduction in cognitive capacity of up to 50 per cent, significantly increasing the risk of error and causing presenteeism.

In Canada, employers pay a high price. Dixon cited studies showing lost productivity alone amounts to $5,000 per year for each affected employee.

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“It’s in our best interests to take a structured approach, including both prevention and intervention measures, to help employees sleep better,” said Dixon, noting that on the prevention side, one of the most effective solutions is a comprehensive sleep health program.

To create a long-term solution for employees suffering from insomnia, HALEO Preventive Health Solutions Inc. recently conducted a pilot project involving 1,800 Desjardins employees.

During the pilot program, HALEO supported the Desjardins employees through the various aspects of care, from education about sleep disorders to screening, evaluation and treatment. The results saw participants experience a significant reduction in symptoms in a short period of time. “This will have a direct impact on reducing absenteeism and improving productivity,” said HALEO president and founder Bradley Smith.

HALEO’s partner for content about sleep education at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston will conduct an analysis of the pilot program’s impact on productivity and absenteeism.

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It’s clear that cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia is the best way to treat the condition in adults, Smith noted. “This is a huge paradigm shift,” he said, noting that doctors now recommend that patients enrol in a behavioural change program before taking medications.

“Sleep is a period of rest we are supposed to have. It’s a biological and psychological necessity, and we need to take it seriously.”

Copyright © 2018 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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