Lost Sleep Is Costing the U.S. $411 Billion in Annual Productivity

According to a new study from RAND Europe.

A new study from RAND Europe adds to mounting data that a lack of sleep puts you at risk for premature death, impairs workplace productivity, and, collectively, inhibits national economic prosperity.

The study, “Why Sleep Matters — The Economic Costs of Insufficient Sleep,” looked at three main research questions: the factors associated with insufficient sleep, the existing data on poor sleep and mortality risk, and the economic implications of sleep duration. The study is the first of its kind to quantify “economic losses due to lack of sleep,” looking at numbers from the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Germany, and Japan.

Key findings in the study note the high economic toll of inadequate sleep in specific countries, with the U.S. losing over one million work days, which translates into economic losses of up to $411 billion a year — the highest of any country. Japan, in comparison, loses an average of 604,000 working days per year.

Marco Hafner, the report’s main author and a research leader at RAND Europe, notes, “[O]ur 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.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. The CDC recognizes sleep as a public health problem, with poor sleepers more likely to suffer from diseases like diabetes, obesity, depression — even cancer — and to have elevated rates of mortality.

Even seemingly minor decisions we make can lead to worse sleep. According to the study, smokers sleep an average of 5 minutes less than non-smokers, sugary-drink consumers sleep an average of 3.4 minutes less than those who abstain, and people who have “medium to high risk” of mental health-related problems sleep an average 17.2 minutes less than those with lower risks.

Interpersonal relationships also have an impact on sleep: lonely people sleep less. For instance, people who are separated from their partner sleep 6.5 minutes less per day, and people who have never been married sleep an average of 4.8 minutes less.

Socioeconomic factors and stressors affect sleep as well: Those who are more worried about money sleep an average of 10 minutes less per day, and people who care for their families, friends, or children and are not economically compensated sleep an average of 5 minutes less per day.

While these numbers may seem insignificant on their own, consider the complexity of our lives and routines, and the likelihood that many of these factors will overlap.


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