Go to sleep, America. It’ll save your health — and the economy

By Satesh Bidaisee, Associate Professor of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, St. George's University
June 26, 2018

Nearly a third of American adults aren’t getting enough sleep.

That’s not surprising given the demands of today’s workforce. The increasingly globalized, digitized world requires many employees to be available around the clock across multiple time zones. And plenty of people work day and night shifts.

That’s not just bad for health — it’s also terrible for the economy.[1] Sleep deprivation can make day-to-day activities much more challenging. People often struggle to process information quickly and accurately. That kills productivity.

All this diminished productivity adds up fast. Every year in the United States, 1.2 million working days are lost due to lack of sleep.[2] Inadequate sleep can bar professional development too; earning a promotion is tough when it’s impossible to perform to one’s full potential.

Failing to catch enough z’s also makes people more prone to accidents and injuries. In fact, twenty percent of fatal U.S. car accidents involve a sleep-deprived driver.[3]

If people consistently get little sleep, they can develop dangerous long-term health problems. That’s because sleep cycles are directly connected to normal hormone processes – and consequently, the proper functioning of various tissues and organs.[4]

As a result, sleep deprivation is linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and mood disorders, to name just a few.[5] Those who get fewer than six hours per night have a 13 percent higher mortality risk than those who get between seven and nine hours.[6] 

These health issues also take a huge toll on the economy. Each year, lack of sleep costs the country $411 billion in economic losses.[7]

Many efforts can help Americans sleep enough. Individuals can commit themselves to setting consistent sleeping patterns. Employers can encourage a healthy work-life balance and refrain from sending emails late into the night. And authorities can educate the public on the importance of a good night’s sleep.[8]

Our medical community must also step up. There’s no single prescription for sleep — but physicians must help people recognize the importance of adequate rest and encourage them to sleep when they need it.

Here at St. George’s, students learn about preventive medicine through their studies and hands-on experiences. This gives our students the tools to provide patients with advice on how to achieve a healthy lifestyle, including a healthy sleep routine. St. George’s also promotes the social and mental well-being of its students by providing resources like “The Well,” based in the Dean of Students Office.

Sleep deprivation is a nightmare for Americans and the economy. It’s time to put that problem to bed.

 

[1] https://www.fool.com/careers/2018/01/03/getting-enough-of-this-makes-you-a-better-worker.aspx

[2] https://www.rand.org/randeurope/research/projects/the-value-of-the-sleep-economy.html

[3] https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/12/06/504448639/drivers-beware-crash-rate-spikes-with-every-hour-of-lost-sleep

[4] http://sleepdisorders.sleepfoundation.org/chapter-1-normal-sleep/the-physiology-of-sleep-the-endocrine-system-sleep/

[5] http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/consequences/sleep-and-disease-risk

[6] https://www.rand.org/randeurope/research/projects/the-value-of-the-sleep-economy.html

[7] https://www.rand.org/randeurope/research/projects/the-value-of-the-sleep-economy.html

[8] https://www.rand.org/randeurope/research/projects/the-value-of-the-sleep-economy.html

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