Sleepy Workers are Costing the US Billions in Lost Productivity


More than one third of Americans don’t get an adequate amount of sleep on a nightly basis, and it costs the U.S. billions.

A recent study led by RAND Europe, a nonprofit organization, found that sleep deprivation costs the U.S. up to $411 billion a year in lost productivity and mortality. Researchers said just getting one extra hour of sleep could add $226.4 billion to the U.S. economy while cutting one’s increased mortality risk in half.

“Our study shows the effects from a lack of sleep are massive,” said study author Marco Hafner to NY Daily News. “Improving individual sleep habits and duration has huge implications, with our research showing that simple changes can make a big difference.”

Flickr Image Courtesy: cell105, CC BY-SA 2.0
Flickr Image Courtesy: cell105, CC BY-SA 2.0

Loss of sleep was related with lifestyle factors related to a modern society, such as psychosocial stress, alcohol consumption, smoking, lack of physical activity and excessive electronic media use. The study’s goal was to assess the wider economic and societal effects of sleep deprivation.

The study also found that sleeping less than six hours a night also results in lower productivity levels and a 13 percent higher risk of mortality, which can lead to American businesses losing around 1.2 million working days a year. The U.S. had the biggest financial losses, followed by Japan and Germany losing up to $138 billion and $60 billion a year, respectively.

“Multiple factors are associated with shorter sleep,” the study said. “These include obesity, excessive alcohol and sugary drink consumption, smoking, lack of physical activity, mental health problems, stress at work, shift work/irregular working hours, financial concerns and long commuting.”

Related: Driving While Drowsy Can Double the Risk of a Crash

Canada was reported to have the best sleep outcomes, but still loses $21.4 billion from workers who need more rest. The study said small changes to sleep duration could have a big impact on the economy.

“If individuals that slept under six hours started sleeping six to seven hours then this could add $226.4 billion to the U.S. economy,” the study said. “This could add $75.7 billion to the Japanese economy, $34.1 billion to the German economy, $29.9 billion to the UK economy and $12 billion to the Canadian economy.”

The study called for employers to set up workplaces where there are facilities for daytime naps. It also discouraged employees from using electronic devices after working hours.

Since restraining from using electronic devices after leaving the workplace is unlikely, individuals are also encouraged to invest in better sleeping habits. Setting consistent bedtimes and wake-up times – including on weekends – exercising during the day, and limiting screentime and use of electronics before bed were all suggested ways to develop healthier sleeping patterns.

The study suggested that public authorities could support health professionals in providing sleep-related help, encourage employers to pay attention to sleep issues and to introduce later school starting times.

“This is alarming as insufficient sleep has been found to be associated with a range of negative health and social outcomes, including success at school and in the labor market,” the study said.