Are You Sleeping Enough? The Economics of Sleep Deprivation

Are you sleeping enough? Studies have shown that a lack of sleep impairs cognitive function decision making and is having an economic impact.

In the 80s and 90s sleep shaming was a thing. People touted that sleep was for suckers. A lack of sleep was glorified because back then it was evidence that you were working hard and leading an important life. In recent years this paradigm has shifted, as more and more research has surfaced on the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation on our health and productivity.

Sleep is a Public Health Epidemic

The CDC (Centre for Disease Control & Prevention) recently declared insufficient sleep a “public health epidemic”. Today, an estimated 50-70 million Americans have sleep or wakefulness disorder. Studies have shown that a lack of sleep impairs cognitive function and decision making. Disturbingly, chronic sleep loss is linked to more serious chronic diseases including hypertension, diabetes, depression, obesity and cancer. On average, individuals who sleep less than 6 hours a night have a 13% higher mortality risk than people who sleep at least 7 hours.

Lauren Hale, a sleep researcher at Stony Brook University and a board member of the National Sleep Foundation, suggests that sleep loss may even be able to help explain the income gap.  Hale states, “generally, people who have more opportunities, more control over their lives, are also better sleepers”. Low income individuals who live in high-risk neighborhoods are at a higher risk of having their sleep impaired. As a result their ability to function the next day may be impacted negatively. In addition, their chances of developing long term health issues is increased. The question is, are we treating the problem as seriously as we ought to be?

Related: 10 Ways to Get Affordable Health Care Even Without Insurance

Economics of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation contributes to not only a higher mortality risk but also productivity losses at work.  A study conducted across five OECD countries found that at a national level, up to 3 per cent of GDP is lost due to lack of sleep. Achieving an increase in sleep on a national level could add billions of dollars to a country’s economy.

Comparing the results of the study across countries, the United States has by far the largest economic losses from sleep deprivation at $411 billion per year, which is equivalent to 2.28% of its GDP. In second place was Japan with $138 billion per year in losses, equivalent to 2.92% of its GDP. Then Germany with losses at $50 billion, which is 1.56% of its GDP. Followed by the UK with losses at $50 billion, which is 1.86% of its GDP.  Canada incurred the lowest financial losses due to lack of sleep, equivalent to 1.35% of its GDP.

More sleep can lead to a big impact on a nation’s economy.

Recommendations For Sleep

The National Sleep Foundation has issued a series of recommendations for “sleep hygiene”. Some recommendations are obvious. For example, you want to avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol before you go to bed. The guidelines also suggest doing regular exercise.  Create a regular bedtime routine for yourself, and avoiding screen time for at least 30 minutes before you sleep are also recommended.

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