Insomnia Linked to Lower Productivity at Work

Employees with insomnia symptoms are more likely to have reduced productivity on the job, regardless of their level of physical activity, reports a study in the March Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

In workers with insomnia and low physical activity, work absences are increased as well, according to the study by Stina Oftedal, PhD, and colleagues of The University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia. They write, "[I]mproving physical activity levels and insomnia symptoms concurrently may improve productivity by reducing presenteeism and sick leave."

The researchers looked at interactions between insomnia, physical activity, and work productivity and absenteeism among employed Australians responding to a nationwide health study. Overall, 18 percent of workers had symptoms of insomnia: 11 percent were classified as physically inactive (less than 150 minutes of physically activity per week) and 7 percent as active. The remaining 82 percent were free of insomnia: 50 percent were physically inactive and 32 percent were active.

Workers with insomnia were more likely to report presenteeism — defined as being present but less productive at work. This was so regardless of physical activity level. After adjustment for other factors, the odds of presenteeism were 40 percent higher for workers with insomnia.

Insomnia was also associated with increased absenteeism, but only in employees who were physically inactive: a 28 percent increase. Inactive workers with insomnia averaged one additional sick day per year, compared to physically active workers without insomnia.

Physical inactivity and insomnia are both considered possible risk factors for reduced work productivity. However, previous studies of these factors have yielded mixed results, with little information about their possible joint effects. Increased physical activity is commonly recommended for people with insomnia.

The new study finds increased presenteeism among workers with insomnia, whether or not they are physically active. In contrast, insomnia is linked to increased absenteeism only for inactive workers. "These findings suggest reducing insomnia symptoms should be considered a key target for interventions aiming to improve on-the-job productivity," Dr. Oftedal and coauthors conclude. "[H]owever, for those who are inactive, increasing physical activity may still be beneficial in terms of improving insomnia symptoms."
About the Author
Dr. Oftedal may be contacted for interviews at
ACOEM (, an international society of 4,000 occupational physicians and other health care professionals, provides leadership to promote optimal health and safety of workers, workplaces, and environments.
About the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine ( is the official journal of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Edited to serve as a guide for physicians, nurses, and researchers, the clinically oriented research articles are an excellent source for new ideas, concepts, techniques, and procedures that can be readily applied in the industrial or commercial employment setting.


Oftedal S, Fenwick MJ, Duncan MJ. The prospective association between physical activity, insomnia symptoms, and productivity in an Australian population-based cohort. J Occup Environ Med. 2022;64(3):183-189.