How Lack of Sleep Can Lower Economic Productivity

I’m willing to bet that many of you reading this blog stayed up last night watching TV or surfing the net, going to bed much later than your normal bedtime. Some of you never sleep for more than 6 hours. Life can oftentimes prevent optimal sleep times, such as having a new baby, work obligations, or staying up to watch the Grammy or Academy awards. 

I’ve written in the past about the enormous medical consequences of poor sleep quality or quantity. But here’s another good reason to regularly get at least 7 hours of sleep: Our country’s gross domestic product. The New York Times printed a revealing article about the negative impact of sleep deprivation on our country’s economy. One telling statistic mentioned is that the number or people who sleep less than 6 hours rose 22% from 1975 to 2006.

If you listen to the topic of conversations during work or amongst friends, being tired or having problems with sleep are very common. Not getting the 7 to 8 hours of sleep is almost normal in this day and age. This is not including people who have medical sleep conditions such as obstructive sleep apnea. In one month in 2008, 29% of workers had fallen asleep or felt sleepy at work. One Australian study estimated the cost of sleepiness on the country’s gross domestic product at 0.8%. If you include medical complications of poor sleep, car accidents and industrial accidents, this figure is sure to be much higher.

This is why companies that values quality sleep can be much more productive and fosters more creativity (think Google’s sleep pods). 

What’s your reason for not getting enough sleep? Is it under your control, or do your personal or work situations prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

2 thoughts on “How Lack of Sleep Can Lower Economic Productivity

  1. I actually sleep quite well — about 8 hours — and only get up once to pee. I always go right back to sleep, but that’s largely because I understand the whole sleep process and commit to getting enough.

    I enjoyed seeing the Google Energy Pods and reading the NYTimes article (thanks for the link), but I was disappointed that I couldn’t share this perspective…

    There are many ways to estimate the economic value of sleep. The Australian study estimated (conservatively) 0.8% of GDP, and if that were applied here, it would be $1.2 trillion. A 2011 Harvard study estimated the corporate productivity impact at $63 billion, but that was just for large corporations and not small businesses. I didn’t find any estimated benefits for individuals, so I wrote a spreadsheet to assess the impact on medical bills, accumulated net worth, and lifetime earning capacity (over $8 million). Wow!

    My assumptions too were conservative, starting with a college graduate $50K/year salary at age 20 and comparing great sleep with poor sleep and a base case. Health costs were assumed to increase with age but worsen faster with poor sleep, causing the individual to retire and live off savings earlier and die sooner. Salary was assumed to increase until old age and then start declining, but with greater increases for those with great sleep due to better attention, creativity, decision-making, focus, memory, and personal relationships. Net worth was also seen as increasing until old age, when it declined in retirement. Factors such as the impact on family and potential divorce were not considered.


  2. I have a sleep breathing disorder which makes it hard for me to sleep through the night. I’ve tried CPAP (endless adjustments over a period of a year and a half), an oral appliance, and have been through the full Stanford 2-phase sleep surgery protocol, with my surgeries performed by eminent surgeons associated with Stanford.

    I had the surgeries in reverse order, with the stage 1 performed 3+ months ago. Before this last surgery, my AHI was .7 and minimum oxygen saturation was 95%. In a sleep study performed 2.5 months afterwords, my AHI was 3.6 and minimum oxygen saturation was 88%. That may not sound bad, but the desaturations wake me up. It’s possible that things will improve over time, and it’s also true that my total RDI supposedly went down after the surgery. But for now I can state with conviction that I’m worse off after the UPPP + GA than I was before.

    My personal belief is that there’s no real cure for UARS, at least not one that helps everyone. In my case, the RERAs (and now desaturations) wake me up, and then I can’t get back to sleep.