It is known that insufficient sleep is a problem that affects health and productivity, but new studies suggest that it is also an economic problem
A recent study of the "think tank" RAND Europe entitled "Why sleep matters - the economic costs of insufficient sleep" revealed that, due to the insufficient sleep of its inhabitants, a country's economy can take a significant blow. The study recognizes that insufficient sleep is a public health problem rather than an economic one, which is why it seeks to draw the attention of decision-makers and thus translates the harm of insufficient sleep to amounts of money.
The RAND Europe study focused on five countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD): the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan; and found that, in total, insufficient sleep costs up 680 billion dollars annually.
Leer en español: ¿Cuánto le cuesta a la economía no dormir bien?
How was this figure reached?
To reach this figure, the study considered the damage that insufficient sleep can bring to the workforce of a country. First, it is suggested that sleeping less than six hours a day increases the risk of mortality by 17% since it increases the incidence of seven of the 15 leading causes of death in developed countries. This is problematic for the economy because it reduces the size of the country's workforce and therefore its productive capacity.
Secondly, insufficient sleep increases absenteeism among workers, whether due to illness or fatigue, which leads to a reduction in the average productivity of each worker. Finally, insufficient sleep during childhood and adolescence has a negative impact on school performance, which limits the development of skills among students, something that also results in lost productivity at the moment in which the person enters at the labor force.
The United States, the biggest loser
The RAND Europe study explains that the United States sustains the greatest losses, due to poor sleep habits among its population: up to 411 billion dollars annually. In comparison, the export of cars and auto parts brought to the United States around 53 billion dollars in 2017, barely one-eighth of what RAND Europe estimates that it cost it insufficient sleep.
However, in relative terms of size, Japan suffers the biggest problems with regard to insufficient sleep, as it costs 2.9% of its annual GDP, compared to the U.S. that can lose up to 2.3%.
You can also read: How to fall asleep? 6 science-backed tips that actually work
What solutions are proposed?
In order to improve sleep habits among the population, and alleviate insufficient sleep already categorized as a public health problem by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the United States, the study makes some recommendations so that countries adopt, if possible, as public policies.
First, people are advised to reduce the use of electronic devices before sleep, as the light that those devices emit has a negative effect on the production of melatonin, a key hormone for sleep regulation. In addition, it suggests reducing the consumption of substances such as caffeine and nicotine, which have an adverse effect on sleep, as well as exercising more, something that has been correlated with better sleep patterns.
The study also includes recommendations for employers, as it is ensured that they must understand that they play an important role in the sleep habits of their employees. In addition to helping to reduce the use of electronic devices, particularly in the afternoon, it is suggested that companies should incorporate routines that promote the quality of sleep of employees.
Finally, the study concludes with public policy recommendations for governments that, according to RAND Europe, should contribute to the training of health professionals so that they can deal with the ills related to lack of sleep, as well as promote good sleep habits among their patients. Likewise, it is proposed to incorporate a delayed start of classes, in order to reduce the impact of insufficient sleep among the students.
LatinAmerican Post | Pedro Bernal
Translated from "¿Cuánto le cuesta a la economía la falta de sueño?"