Our Poor Sleep Habits Cost the Economy Billions Each Year

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Between nonstop workdays, poor health habits, and the blue-light effect, it’s no wonder that one in three American adults aren’t getting enough sleep. Anyone who’s experienced sleep deprivation knows how it can impact you on an individual basis, but new research shows that it has an effect on the U.S. economy as well. As Quartz reports, lack of sleep amounts to the loss of 1.2 million work days—or $411 billion—a year.

The research firm RAND put together their study on the economic costs of insufficient sleep [PDF] by comparing numbers from a UK workplace survey to a 2013 National Sleep Foundation study of the sleep habits in five countries. According to the paper, workers who slept less than six hours each night reported a 2.4 percent higher rate of productivity loss than those who got the full recommended sleep amount (seven to nine hours). Even employees getting six to seven hours, just below the healthy minimum, were 1.5 percent less productive.

Poor performance at work due to grogginess can result in a real loss for a company. As the report shows, that reduced productivity from the sleep-deprived worker adds up to six additional missing work days a year. All together, these fatigued employees take away 2.28 percent of the GDP from the economy.

RAND admits that employment at medium-to-large companies and the finance industry was over-represented among the 62,000 subjects in the report. But it’s not hard to see how an exhausted workforce could have a negative impact in other fields: Past research has shown that people who get insufficient sleep are more likely to catch colds, experience anxiety, and have trouble forming memories. Bad sleep habits can have long-term effects as well, such as increased risk for certain cancers and other health issues.

If a full night’s sleep isn’t already a priority in your life, it’s time to make it one. After settling into bed at a reasonable hour, encourage your body to fall asleep faster by dimming your devices at night and using a white noise machine to drown out disruptive sounds. If none of that seems to work, consider asking your doctor if a sleep disorder could be the cause of your restless nights.

[h/t Quartz]