The Cost of Lost Sleep, In Dollars

By Jill Duffy

When you have a bad night’s and roll up to work groggy, you’re not the only one suffering. Employers lose money every time workers show up to the office less than refreshed. Lack of sleep for one person is bad news, but as a nation, sleepless Americans could be costing billions of dollars in lost productivity. While you might be suffering the most from poor sleep habits, these five facts about the economics of sleep indicate that your problem just might be part of a national epidemic–and a costly one at that.

  1. Insomniacs cost employers more than $3,000 per person per year in lost productivity. In a study of more than 4,000 people across four industries in the U.S., researchers found that employers lost close to $2,000 per employee in annual productivity, and the figure was much higher for insomniacs: $3,156! “Extended periods of deprived sleep are really bad for a company,” said Dane Atkinson, CEO of SumAll, which helps other companies collect data about themselves and their employees. When asked whether companies should be paying more attention to their employees’ sleep and how it affects productivity, Atkinson said, “Yes. Absolutely,” adding that wellness is one of the most significant factors in an employee’s ability to be productive, and sleep is a major driver of wellness.
  2. Across the U.S., lack of sleep has been estimated to cost $63.2 billion in lost productivity. All those thousands of dollars lost per employee add up to enormous missed opportunities for the country at large, according to data from the American Insomnia Study, undertaken by Harvard Medical School.
  3. The average worker loses 11 days of productivity every year due to bad sleep, according to the same study by Harvard Medical School. Think of it this way: Not getting enough sleep costs you (or your employer) as much in lost productivity as a two-week vacation!

So how little is too little?

  1. Six hours of sleep per night is as bad as getting none at all. A 2003 study of sleep deprivation took 48 adults and restricted their sleep to either four, six, or eight hours per night for two weeks. A fourth group was deprived of sleep for three days straight. The participants took tests every two hours to check their focus and cognitive performance. After two weeks, the subjects who were restricted to six hours or less per night bombed their tests as badly as the people who were forced to stay awake continuously! Two days of no sleep whatsoever was as bad as two weeks of sleeping six hours or less per night.

The real kicker is that those who slept six hours a night or less didn’t realize that their cognitive performance had gone downhill. If you’re sleeping less than you need to each night, you probably don’t even realize that it’s hurting your productivity.

5. Sleeping on the job could be the solution to lost productivity. A 10-minute nap has been shown to boost alertness and performance. While it’s still a fairly nascent movement, some companies are starting to understand the importance of sleep on their bottom lines and have added nap rooms to their offices. Christopher Lindholst is CEO of MetroNaps, a company that makes nap chairs designed for busy workers. “We think within the next 20 years, all employers will offer some sort of rest facility for their employees,” said Lindholst. “A short rest of 15 to 20 minutes can have an alertness boost of about 30 percent.”

Tags:  Sleep

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