Map showing economic costs of insufficient sleep across five OECD countries. Credit: RAND

Map showing economic costs of insufficient sleep across five OECD countries. Credit: RAND

One in three American adults don’t get enough sleep, says the CDC. There are a variety of reasons for sleep deprivation, from modern handheld gadgets that make it difficult to fall asleep to long, demanding working hours. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that at some point, the hours you invest working stop yielding a good return because you’re biologically limited, i.e. you get tired. Case in point, one recent study estimates the U.S. economy loses $411 yearly to poor sleep which reduces productivity and promotes obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and frequent mental distress.

How to make money in your sleep — just do it

The analysis was performed by a non-profit called RAND Europe, which considered any less than the bare minimum of seven hours of sleep as sleep deprivation. Using a large employer-employee dataset, the researchers crunched the numbers to predict the economic effects due to poor sleep for five countries: the U.S, UK, Canada, Germany, and Japan.

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“Our study shows that the effects from a lack of sleep are massive. Sleep deprivation not only influences an individual’s health and wellbeing but has a significant impact on a nation’s economy, with lower productivity levels and a higher mortality risk among workers,” said Marco Hafner, a research leader at RAND Europe and an author of the report.

“Improving individual sleep habits and duration has huge implications, with our research showing that simple changes can make a big difference. For example, if those who sleep under six hours a night increase their sleep to between six and seven hours a night, this could add $226.4 billion to the U.S. economy,” he added.

The key findings were:

  • The United States loses over 1.2 million working days a year which translate into $411 billion losses or 2.28 percent of the GDP;
  • Followed by Japan which loses 600,000 working days, amounting to $138 billion in losses, which is 2.92 percent of its GDP;
  • Germany, 200,000 working days, translating in $60 billion or 1.56 percent of its GDP;
  • The U.K. misses $50 billion to poor sleep, which is 1.86 percent of its GDP, and just over 200,000 working days lost;
  • Canada had the best sleep outcomes losing only 80,000 work days or $21.4 billion, which is around 1.35 percent of its GDP.

The report recommends individuals to be very disciplined about their wake-up times, avoid electronics before bedtime, and get plenty of exercise during the day. Employers, for their own sake, are advised to promote the importance of sleep in the corporate culture. Facilities for daytime naps can help, as well as a good manager who knows to spot an employee who’s burning himself out. Policy-wise, the authors of the report advise governments to promote the importance of sleep on a national level, work with employers to reduce sleep issues, and introduce later school starting times.