Economic Cost of Poor Sleep Health

February 24, 2022
5 Minute read

We live in a world where everything has a cost. We are at a point where even the economic cost of poor sleep health must be accounted for, which is in direct contrast with what the world has led us to believe.

Are we not accustomed to successful people talking about how they never sleep for long and that’s how they are where they are today? And maybe it is true for them. However, numbers would suggest that working more does not guarantee more money, for you personally or for the companies. A sleep-deprived employee is low on productivity as well as the quality of work, leading the cost to go up.

Poor sleep health costs everyone involved in society, be it the employee, their boss, or the inter-related people in society at large.

Less Sleep Equals a Dip in Productivity

woman sleeping at her desk

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that at least 1 in 3 adults do not get enough sleep. The same studies have responses from employees who have confessed to not getting proper sleep. About 35 percent have lamented their lack of sleep and decrease in productivity.

A study was conducted with 7,428 subjects. These people either had insomnia or sleep deprivation. As it turned out, the time spent staying awake did not magically make them get more work done. Instead, the period of sleep deprivation led to the employer having to bear an economic cost of $2,280 for every employee. Depending on the organization's size, you can imagine how big this number can be.

It seems workplace policies, in turn, can lead employees into sleep deprivation.

The Health and Economic Risk of Poor Sleep Health

Woman sneezing

According to research, the mortality rate has increased by 13 percent due to poor sleep health. In a roundabout way, this affects the economy too. Think about the number of ways one could lose their employees because they did not get enough sleep and ended up with some serious condition due to it. We face economic disadvantages every time society loses what would otherwise have been a healthy, working member.

Let’s take a look at the health issues caused by poor sleep. 699 USDA Forest Service Workers were surveyed, and the study was published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. It appears employees who did not have to deal with a bad day at work or could at least turn off the part of their brain that lingered on a bad day tended to sleep better than those who could not.

Poor Sleep Health Costs A lot of Money

man holding breifcase with money falling out

The CDC declared lack of sleep as a public health problem at one point. A study on Rand also brought forward some alarming numbers.

For one, sleep deprivation can be linked to a higher mortality rate, and the numbers prove this. Compared to a person who is getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep, a person who gets less than 6 hours of sleep has a 10 percent higher chance of getting close to death. Even a six to seven hours of sleep schedule presents a 4 percent higher chance of knocking at death's door.

Poor sleep health has cost the US an estimated $411 billion per year. The loss the US experiences eclipses all other countries.

Japan follows the US closely behind by losing $138 billion every year. In fact, when we count on loss by comparing it to the economy size, Japan suffers a higher loss with 1.86 per cent to 2.92 per cent. The US is a bit lower with 1.56 to 2.28 per cent. Japan and US are followed by UK, Germany, and Canada in terms of economic size and loss.

In terms of working days that are lost, the US loses 1.23 million days yearly. Japan loses 604 thousand working days every year. Canada loses the lowest amount of working days with 78 thousand every year.

Heart Problems

About half a million people were tested in a study conducted by the University of Colorado. The conclusion was that even without having any genetic disadvantage and maintaining a healthy diet, you can still get heart diseases from sleeping too late. On the contrary, even sleeping too much can cause the same problem.

Obesity

Poor sleep quality has often been linked to obesity. However, it is interesting to note that obesity is also linked to sleep apnea, a disorder that does not let you sleep soundly at night.

Depression

It seems one can get depressed by regularly depriving themselves of proper sleep. On the other hand, depression itself can make it hard for a person to sleep peacefully.

Diabetes

Studies suggest that those who don’t get proper sleep at night on a regular basis have a good chance of getting Type 2 diabetes.

Poor Sleep Health and Sleep Apnea

woman sleeping with CPAP machine

Sleep apnea is a disorder that cannot be ignored at both societal and personal levels.

Obstructive sleep apnea has the distinct drawback of allowing a person to acquire a variety of other disorders as a result of it. Obesity, depression, heart disease, and diabetes are all risk factors for people who have sleep apnea. So, if we're talking about the consequences of poor sleeping habits, sleep apnea is unmistakable proof.

You can say sleep apnea not only affects the economic cost by making the person suffering from it unable to sleep but also burdening them with other symptoms that lead to more sleep deprivation.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which the muscles around the throat relax so much during sleep that the tissues become blocked on top of one other. As a result, the upper airway is unable to provide your body with as much oxygen as it requires. When waking up, the person sleeping often feels as if they are being choked and as if they are unable to breathe.

Due to difficulty of breathing, the person can wake up several times throughout the night. Therefore, it is unlikely for someone with sleep apnea to get a good night’s sleep.

This follows them into the day, where they feel tired, sluggish, and dizzy. In fact, people with sleep apnea also have a higher chance of getting into car accidents. There have been cases where the person has fallen asleep behind the wheels, as their body gives in to the lack of sleep they experienced during the night.

Sleep apnea is easily treatable compared to all the other sleep disruptions one can face. Most patients are recommended to go on CPAP therapy.

The CPAP machine supplies your body with continuous positive airway pressure throughout the night. It prevents your upper airway from collapsing and blocking your airway passage.

Over time, you can regain your normal life back with this therapy. You will sleep better throughout the night if you get CPAP treatment. Then, you can get work done during the day and don’t have to fear falling asleep behind the wheels.

If you are prescribed CPAP therapy, you will need a CPAP machine, tubing and a CPAP mask. The tubing should be replaced 3-6 months and the mask cushion, which is the part that goes on your face, should be replaced every 30-60 days. The headgear of the mask should be replaced every 6 months and the frame of the mask, which is the part the hold everything together, should be replaced every 3-6 months.

What Can Employers do to Reduce the Cost?

We know the economic cost of poor sleep health. What can employers do to prevent this? For one, eliminating what is causing employees to lose sleep should do. If it is the work environment, one has to try and improve it. If it is the workload, it might be better to bring in more employees and divide the work properly instead of putting pressure on a single employee.

Reducing the time spent inside the office can also help. Those working from home seem to have a higher productivity, as they do not have to spend time on the commute, which makes them wake up earlier and miss out on sleep.

Furthermore, if it is related to medical concerns, assisting them through an insurance coverage can be really beneficial.

Final Thoughts

There is a company in Japan called Crazy INC that has been encouraging its employees to get sleep by rewarding them with cafeteria points. We are sure you can come up with your own solution for making your employees sleep better. It does not have to cost you like the company from Japan either. It can be a simple matter of making schedule adjustments.

Written by The Sleeplay Team

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