The Economic Impact of Sleep Deprivation

The Economic Impact of Sleep Deprivation

As working adults, we take for granted the hours of sleep we get each night, most of us settling for whatever amount of sleep we can get at the end of the day. We trick ourselves into thinking that we can function on less than 6 hours of sleep and that we are, in fact, more productive for it. However, a lot of studies on sleep science will prove us wrong – and being misinformed could have actual economic costs for companies and industries.

A cross-country comparative analysis conducted in 2016 by The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States concluded that “sleeplessness in the U.S. workforce results in economic losses of roughly $411 billion per year, with 1.2 million working days lost [1]. The CDC goes on to declare that insufficient sleep is a ‘public health problem’.

The effects of sleep deprivation such as feeling tired, fatigued, groggy, cranky, and unable to concentrate, can have less than ideal consequences on how employees perform at work. Unfortunately, these ‘symptoms’ are very hard to see. You can’t take a look at a person and say, “go home, you’re sleep deprived” the same way you would send home an employee with the flu or chickenpox.

If you are an employee who constantly finds himself/herself sleep deprived or if you are an employer who is concerned about the productivity of your employees, here are several tips on how you can manage the effects of sleep deprivation:

Let in natural light.

Natural light is a critical ingredient for better sleep. It stimulates melatonin production which helps our natural circadian cycle find its rhythm. People who are exposed to natural light daily sleep better than those who are only ever exposed to artificial light. If your workplace is blessed with access to natural light, then by all means – let the sunshine in!

Welcome breaks.

If you are an employer, be mindful of sending after office hours emails. Make sure that your staff takes vacation breaks and don’t expect them to stay online and be available 24/7.

If you are an employee, take your vacations seriously. Stay off the grid for a while – the world won’t blow up just because you’re out of the office. Unplug.

Wellness is a priority.

Enroll in wellness programs. If your office offers a wellness incentive program like yoga retreats or spa days, then take them! Otherwise, you can go on your own wellness retreat by enrolling in yoga or learning meditation. It also helps to treat yourself out to a massage or a spa day once in a while.

Also, practice good sleep hygiene. If you need more tips on how to sleep better, you can read my previous posts here, here, and here.

Below is a set of recommendations by the CDC on how to get better sleep:

  • To improve sleep outcomes, individuals should: Set consistent wake-up times; limit the use of electronic items before bedtime; and exercise.
  • Employers should: Recognize the importance of sleep and the employer’s role in its promotion; design and build brighter workspaces; combat workplace psychosocial risks, and discourage the extended use of electronic devices.
  • Public authorities should: Support health professionals in providing sleep-related help; encourage employers to pay attention to sleep issues; and introduce later school starting times.

Do you have other tips for sleep deprived employees? Share them with us in the comments! Stay humble and hustle hard.


Written by: Jaie O. – The Help