A lack of sleep among the U.S. working population is costing the economy up to $411 billion a year, which is 2.28% of the country's GDP, a new report finds.

According to researchers at the nonprofit research organization RAND Europe, part of the RAND Corporation, sleep deprivation leads to a higher mortality risk and lower productivity levels among the workforce, putting a significant damper on a nation's economy.

A person who sleeps on average less than six hours a night has a 13% higher mortality risk than someone sleeping between seven and nine hours, researchers found, while those sleeping between six and seven hours a day have a 7% higher mortality risk.

Sleeping between seven and nine hours per night is described as the “healthy daily sleep range.”

In total, the U.S. loses just over 1.2 million working days a year due to sleep deprivation among its working population.

Productivity losses at work occur through a combination of absenteeism, employees not being at work, and presenteeism, where employees are at work but working at a sub-optimal level.

The study, Why Sleep Matters – The Economic Costs of Insufficient Sleep, is the first of its kind to quantify the economic losses due to lack of sleep among workers in five different countries—the U.S., UK, Canada, Germany, and Japan.

The study uses a large employer-employee dataset and data on sleep duration from the five countries to quantify the predicted economic effects from a lack of sleep among its workforce.

“Our study shows that the effects from a lack of sleep are massive,” says Marco Hafner, a research leader at RAND Europe and the report's main author.

“Sleep deprivation not only influences an individual's health and well-being but has a significant impact on a nation's economy, with lower productivity levels and a higher mortality risk among workers.”

If those who sleep under six hours a night increase their sleep to between six and seven hours a night, this could add $226.4 billion to the U.S. economy.
He continues: “Improving individual sleep habits and duration has huge implications, with our research showing that simple changes can make a big difference. For example, if those who sleep under six hours a night increase their sleep to between six and seven hours a night, this could add $226.4 billion to the U.S. economy.”

Country Comparison

The U.S. has the biggest financial losses (up to $411 billion, which is 2.28% of its GDP) and most working days lost (1.2 million) due to sleep deprivation among its workforce. This was closely followed by Japan (up to $138 billion, which is 2.92% of its GDP, and around 600,000 working days lost).

Germany (up to $60 billion, which is 1.56% of its GDP, and just over 200,000 working days lost) and the U.K (up to $50 billion, which is 1.86% of its GDP, and just over 200,000 working days lost) have similar losses.

Canada was the nation with the best sleep outcomes, but still has significant financial and productivity losses (up to $21.4 billion, which is around 1.35% of its GDP, and just under 80,000 working days lost).

Recommendations

To improve sleep outcomes, the report outlines a number of recommendations for individuals, employers, and public authorities:

Individuals—Set consistent wake-up times, limit the use of electronic items before bedtime, and exercise during the day.

Employers—Recognize the importance of sleep and the employer's role in its promotion, design and build brighter workspaces with facilities for daytime naps, combat workplace psychosocial risks, and discourage the extended use of electronic devices after working hours.

Public authorities—Support health professionals in providing sleep-related help, encourage employers to pay attention to sleep issues, and introduce later school starting times.