The Costs of Sleep Deprivation

Life is all about work, right? America today, as a whole, has put less focus on health and more on education, jobs, and most importantly, money. Most of us are working full-time jobs, are full-time students, or doing a (usually unhealthy) mix of both. 

Don’t be asleep at the wheel

Why? Because we have been taught that in order to succeed, we need good jobs to make good money. So everything we do from adolescence onward is to achieve that goal: work hard in school to work hard at a good job to fill up that bank account. 

So how do we do it? We believe in working harder to be better. 

Except… this is wrong. In an earlier post, we talked about how the best way to succeed is to get proper sleep, and that’s never going to change. To be your best, you need to sleep! 

Unfortunately, we have started neglecting this necessity and choosing work or the occasional play over a good night’s rest. But this collective lack of sleep is hurting both our health and our economy. 

We’ll take a look at what causes sleep deprivation, all the ways it costs us, individually and collectively, and what can be done about it. Then you can decide if that overtime at the office or late-night drink with your friends after a 40-hour week is worth it. 

What Causes Sleep Deprivation?

There are so many different reasons for why you might be sleep deprived. It could be just personal choice, in which you stay out late after work with a friend, or stay up until the wee hours of the morning reading a good book. 

Perhaps you have a job that disrupts your natural sleep cycle. You might work night shifts and sleep through the day, or travel often and are regularly jet-lagged.

Another reason for sleep deprivation is your sleeping environment. Living on a noisy street, the bedroom being too hot or too cold, and a snoring partner can all be reasons for sleep deprivation.

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This leads us to two of the major reasons for sleep deprivation: illness and sleep disorders. There are a variety of illnesses that are accompanied by insomnia or that are treated with medicines that make it difficult to sleep. Sleep disorders, though, are a huge reason for people not getting adequate sleep and most of the time, they go unnoticed!

Sleep apnea is one of the most common sleep disorders. It’s accompanied by intense snoring, abrupt awakenings throughout the night, and excessive daytime fatigue. Many cases of sleep apnea are left untreated, mostly because the sufferer sums up their sleeping difficulty to any other reason but a disorder.

If you are struggling to sleep and experience symptoms of a sleep disorder, the best thing to do is get it checked. We have a team of sleep professionals at Advanced Sleep Centers of Virginia ready to help you beat sleep deprivation. 

Now that we know some of the causes of sleep deprivation… why is it such a big deal?

Sleep Deprivation Impacts Productivity 

This might be hard to accept, but sleep does have a huge impact on your productivity. The less sleep, the less productivity. 

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a third of American adults are not getting the sleep they require to be productive. To function optimally, adults 18-60 years of age need at least 7 hours of sleep nightly. Since the CDC has deemed lack of sleep a public health problem, it’s safe to say too many adults are sleeping way below that number of hours.

Since you are not working at your best capacity, there is a cost. A particular study of 7,428 participants concluded that sleep deprivation and insomnia costs $2,280 per employee annually. Employees themselves spend over $1,000 a year on coffee and other stimulants. That’s a lot of money gone to temporary remedies for sleep deprivation. 

Sleep deprivation doesn’t just waste money; it wastes time as well. Many individuals spend hours upon hours doing work that, if properly rested, could take a fraction of the time. The U.S. as a whole loses 1.2 million working days a year to sleep deprivation. 

Sleep Deprivation and the Economy 

Something that is easily overlooked is the damages sleep deprivation has on the economy. The United States loses up to $411 billion a year to sleep deprivation, or 2.28% of it’s GDP. 

This is not just a problem for Americans, though. Insufficient sleep is prevalent globally. While the United States certainly loses the most, thanks to its size, other countries have shown significant losses as well. Japan loses up to $138 billion a year, Germany up to $60 billion, and the United Kingdom up to $50 billion. Canada sustains minor losses, in comparison, due to lack of sleep, coming in at about $21 billion annually.

Nonetheless, the numbers prove that insufficient sleep is a serious problem for a country’s economy. Imagine what the U.S. could do with that $411 billion. And what an easy solution; we all just need to sleep more. 

This study shows that even small changes in sleep could mean big changes for the economy. For instance, if an employee who normally sleeps 6 hours a night, adding just one more hour of sleep can increase productivity and help put back up to $226 billion into the American economy.

Sleep Deprivation Increases Accidents

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A lack of sleep greatly hinders cognitive ability, Performance, memory, concentration, mood, and more can all be affected by sleep deprivation. This creates an increased risk for accidents and work-related injuries.

Asleep at the wheel

Perhaps the biggest concern in the United States regarding this is drowsy driving. This is when drivers are so tired they fall asleep behind the wheel or their ability to handle the vehicle safely is impaired. Research has shown that driving drowsy is comparable to driving drunk. What’s worse, one-third of drivers have admitted to driving drowsy at some point in their lives. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 100,000 accidents annually are the direct result of drowsy driving. They also suggest that 20 percent of annual traffic deaths can be linked to drowsy driving. 

The CDC has recognized that sleep-related concerns are strongly associated with drowsy driving. This includes sleep deprivation (less than 7 hours a night), sleep disorders, snoring, and daytime fatigue. The CDC identifies shift workers, people with sleep disorders, and young men to be at higher risk of drowsy driving. 

The Health Risks of Sleep Deprivation 

Sleep deprivation has more dangers than just wasted time and car crashes. It also takes a severe toll on the body; people who are sleep deprived are at a 13% higher mortality rate. 

There are many ways sleep deprivation affects the body and its functions. For example, the effects it has on the mind include memory issues, trouble concentrating, and mood changes. It puts stress on the heart and stomach. It can even affect balance and coordination, similarly to alcohol. 

Here are just a few serious health conditions that could arise due to sleep deprivation: 

1. Heart Disease

Sleep deprivation increases blood pressure and inflammation levels. Both of these are key to heart disease. With the extra stress sleep deprivation puts on the heart, all of this combined significantly heightens the risk for heart disease. 

2. Type 2 Diabetes

Sleep deprivation directly affects the amount of insulin your body releases. Due to this fact, people who are sleep deprived have higher blood sugar levels and in turn, are at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 

3. Stroke 

People who lack the proper amount of sleep are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease. This means more than just heart disease, though. Since sleep duration impacts blood pressure and sugar, weight, and atrial fibrillation, studies have linked sleep deprivation to increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. 

4. Depression/Anxiety

Since sleep deprivation impacts mood, the risk of developing mental or emotional disorders such as depression and anxiety is much higher. If a severe lack of sleep continues, it can even bring on hallucinations or bouts of mania. 

5. Chronic Lung Disease

There is a strong link between sleep and the respiratory system, which can be shown through sleep-disordered breathing like obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Sleep deprivation itself weakens the immune system, which leaves you more susceptible to respiratory infections. This could be as insignificant as a common cold or as severe as chronic pneumonia. People with sleep-disordered breathing are at an even higher risk of developing lung disease or making existing lung disease worse.

6. Obesity

Finally, sleep plays a huge role in weight. While proper sleep can actually assist in weight loss regimens, sleep deprivation leads to weight gain.

The chemicals in your brain that tell you when you are full are set off-balance when you are sleep deprived, so you are usually hungrier and more likely to overeat. Overall, studies have been linking poor sleep and obesity risk for years. 

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So What Can You Do? 

So there’s no question that sleep deprivation can negatively impact almost every portion of your life… But what can you do about it? 

There’s a lot of different things both you as an individual and groups like companies can do to combat this issue. For instance, some companies have started paying their employees money or other rewards in return for them getting proper amounts of sleep on work-nights. 

Employers don’t have to pay for proper sleep, though. The CDC recommends that employers adjust work schedules to allow for sleep in employees’ schedules or educate employees on improving sleep quality. Whatever companies do, helping workers to get a good night’s rest will only increase earnings and success. 

As individuals, it can be hard to make time for a good night’s sleep. We get wrapped up in work projects or schoolwork, and when we finally get a free moment we can get caught up in our favorite TV show, scrolling through Instagram, or hanging out with friends. 

It’s crucial that we do what we can to get sufficient sleep, though. For adults 18 and older, that means 7-9 hours a night. Here are a few ways you can improve your sleep:

  • Setting a sleep schedule and sticking to it
  • Limiting daytime naps 
  • Avoiding caffeine in the afternoon
  • Avoiding heavy meals before bed
  • Turning off electronics an hour before bed
  • Making a bedtime routine to relax (take a bath, read, etc.)
  • Exercise regularly (but not right before bed!) 

For more information on improving sleep, check out our blog post here that talks about sleep, success, and how to maximize your sleep. 

Get A Better Night’s Rest Today 

If you are looking to improve your sleep and need help doing so, or perhaps are struggling with signs of a sleep disorder, Advanced Sleep Centers of Virginia is here for you. We have a highly trained team of sleep professionals that are dedicated to your safety and health. We want you to succeed and be the best possible you! 

We also make the process of diagnosing and treating sleep disorders and improving sleep quality easy, with at-home sleep tests, online scheduling, and a secure telemedicine portal where you can speak privately with sleep professionals. And if there are other underlying issues, we have a curated list of trusted professionals to help you get the treatment you need!

Don’t let your lack of sleep get in the way of your success! Schedule an appointment online or call us today at (703) 689-2480.

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