Sleep disturbances and disability following work-related injury and illness: examining longitudinal relationships across three follow-up waves

Publication type
Journal article
Fan J, Sim M, Lilley R, Wong IS, Smith PM
Date published
2021 Jun 01
Journal of Sleep Research
Open Access?

Despite the high burden of sleep disturbances among the general population, there is limited information on prevalence and impact of poor sleep among injured workers. This study: (a) estimated the prevalence of sleep disturbance following work-related injury; and (b) examined the longitudinal association between sleep disturbances and disability/functioning, accounting for reciprocal relationships and mental illness. Longitudinal survey data were collected from workers' compensation claimants with a time-loss claim in Victoria, Australia (N = 700). Surveys were conducted at baseline, 6 months and 12 months. Sleep disturbance was measured using the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) questionnaire. Disability/functioning was based on self-reported activity limitations, participation restrictions and emotional functioning. Path models examined the association between disability/functioning and sleep. Mean sleep disturbance T-scores were 55.2 (SD 11.4) at 6 months, with 36.4% of the sample having a T-score of 60+. Longitudinal relationships were observed between disability (specifically, emotional functioning) and sleep disturbances across successive follow-up waves. For example, each unit increase in T2 emotional functioning (five-point scale) was associated with a 1.1 unit increase in T3 sleep disturbance (approximately 29-76 scale). Cross-lagged path models found evidence of a reciprocal relationship between disability and sleep, although adjustment for mental illness attenuated the estimates to the null. In conclusion, sleep disturbances are common among workers' compensation claimants with work injuries/illnesses. Given the links between some dimensions of disability, mental health and sleep disturbances, the findings have implications for the development of interventions that target the high prevalence of sleep problems among working populations.