Economic Loss & Sleep Deprivation – They Have More in Common Than You’d Think

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Sleep deprivation – it’s a real issue that everyone (yes, everyone) deals with at one point in their life. Whether you’ve been sleep-deprived once or twice studying for a test and staying up all night (missing out on a quality 8 hours of sleep) or you actively miss out on vital sleep due to your career, stress, or medical issues, sleep deprivation is a serious condition.

So serious, in fact, that the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared insufficient sleep a public health problem, citing that more than 1/3 of American adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis. That being said, it’s not just an issue that’s concerning to America – other countries suffer, too.

According to a study from RAND Europe, sleep deprivation is causing more than just health issues – it’s contributing to economic loss all over the world. This study links a lack of sleep to far-reaching and expensive economic consequences, citing lower productivity at work, higher mortality risk rate, and health issues like stress, obesity, alcohol consumption, and lack of physical activity, as economic burdens.

What Results Did This Study Yield?

According to the RAND study, sleep deprivation plays a huge role in economic loss. This study states that the United States loses about 1.2 million working days annually because of insufficient sleep – this is all tied to the basis of lower productivity resulting in lost working days every year. The US is followed by Japan, who loses about 600,000 working days per year due to sleep-deprived work productivity. The UK and Germany also lose about 200,000 working days, while Canada loses around 80,000 working days.

Further, the study states that sleep deprivation (sleeping less than six hours per night) puts an individual at a 13 percent higher mortality risk than someone with a regular sleep schedule (anywhere between seven-nine hours). On that same note, multiple harmful factors are associated with sleep deprivation, like obesity, smoking, alcohol consumption, mental heal issues, irregular working hours, and financial concerns  — all of this plays into work performance, mortality rate, and economic loss for companies.

Recommendations for Improvement

This study doesn’t just spell out how sleep deprivation contributes to economic loss (although, it certainly does that well), but it also provides hypothesized solutions for solving these issues.

For example, this study suggests that individuals who suffer from sleep deprivation could set consistent wake-up times, exercise to improve sleep quality, and limit the use of electronics before sleep. Employers, on the other hand, could also recognize the importance of sleep in an employer’s role and design brighter workplaces, discourage electronic devices, and combat workplace psychological risks. Even further, public authorities could do their part to support providing sleep-related help for those who are suffering from sleep deprivation, provide solutions for individuals suffering from sleep deprivation, and even introduce later start times for work, school, and more.