Americans aren’t getting nearly enough sleep – and it’s not just their health that’s paying the price.
Using survey data from the National Sleep Foundation to determine how shortened sleep (less than the normal seven to nine hours a night) was impacting the economies of five different countries, the researchers considered three effects of insufficient sleep: mortality (since insufficient sleep has been linked to roughly half of the leading causes of death in the U.S.); productivity (since drowsy employees are less productive and more likely to bail on work); and hindered development skills and educational achievement (which affect lifetime earnings.)
“How would those countries - the U.S., the UK, Germany, Japan and Canada - look if the proportion of people who sleep less than a certain amount of time actually improve?” said Marco Hafner, the report’s main author, of the inspiration for the study.
The researchers found that the U.S. loses the most from sleep deprivation, which costs the economy about 1.2-million working days a year and up to $411-billion (about two percent of the GDP.) Japan was the second country most impacted by lack of sleep, losing roughly the same percentage of its GDP, followed by Germany and the U.K. While Canada had the best sleepers, its economy still lost 1.4 percent of its GDP because of insufficient sleep.
The researchers also discovered a range of ill health effects from insufficient sleep, with Hafner offering: “it seems to be not only a public health issue, but also an economic issue.”
Getting roughly six hours of sleep a night, for example, is linked to a seven percent higher risk of mortality, while getting less than six hours leads to a 13 percent higher risk.
“It’s not a small problem,” Hafner said.
The authors pointed out that getting more physical activity and not smoking is linked to better sleep. Hafner also recommends putting down your smartphone every once in a while.
“As a society, we need to increasingly think about sleep,” Hafner said. “When you hear from business leaders or political leaders that they can get around four hours of sleep and be fine, and that everyone who needs more sleep is a wimp, it’s increasingly proven to be wrong.”