What is lack of sleep costing the American economy?
For the millions of Americans who struggle with insomnia, dragging yourself into the office in the morning is more than just a figure of speech. A new study published in Sleep, the journal of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, shows what insomniacs everywhere have known for years; sleepless nights lead to scattered days. The loss of productivity caused by insomnia is a significant drain on the American business economy, equating to a loss of several thousand dollars per employee per year. When you look at the overall impact of the 23% of Americans who struggle with insomnia, the $63B annual cost is staggering.
This study looked at the sleep habits and work performance of over 7,000 participants from the American Insomnia Study. After compiling all the data, the conclusion was clear, less sleep equals decreased productivity. On average, an American employee with insomnia loses 11.3 days per year of productive time. This costs employers an average of $2,280 per employee each year. Current estimates show that only 10-20% of those suffering from insomnia are being treated which leads to a lot of sleepy people in the office.
The study did show that insomnia is not likely to keep people home from work and therefore by itself is not a significant contributor to absenteeism. However, it is important to remember that prolonged lack of sleep can cause both short term and long term health problems so the impact of sleeplessness on attendance should not be dismissed. The study describes an employee who comes to work but is too tired or distracted to be effective as suffering from presenteeism.
Lack of sleep affects your memory, creativity, critical thinking, multi-tasking ability, response time, and focus. These impacts are like kryptonite to a worker in an information based economy. It would be hard to find a greater drain on overall productivity. According to the findings, companies across the country would benefit from insomnia screening programs and by offering sleep support for their employees with insomnia. The average cost to treat insomnia ranges from about $200-$1,200/year. If an employee with insomnia costs an employer $2,280 in lost productivity, helping with treatment costs would actually save money in the long run.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common causes of insomnia are stress, depression, and medication. There is also concern in the sleep medicine community about the impact of electronics with backlit screens like iPads, laptops, and smart phones on people’s sleep schedules. Because our bodies respond to the darkness that accompanies nightfall by releasing melatonin to tell us it is time to fall asleep, devices that bathe us in light may interrupt these hormonal signals. This may be an underlying cause for some cases of insomnia.
If you are one of the 23% who suffers from insomnia, there are steps you can take to help stave off the sleepless nights.
- Sleep Aids – Many people avoid using sleeping pills of any kind because of fears related to addiction and dependence. Work with your doctor or sleep professional to address any concerns you might have and find the right medication for you.
- Sleep Schedule – One of the best ways to keep your sleep regular is to stay on a schedule, going to sleep at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning. This is true even on weekends and holidays.
- Avoid Stimulating Activities – Paying bills, exercising, doing work, or any other mentally or physically stimulating activity should be avoiding in the hours leading up to bed time. It takes longer for your body and mind to slow down and settle into sleep when they are all revved up and ready to go.
- Avoid Alcohol – Even if a drink before bed makes you drowsy, you should skip it in the hours before bed. Alcohol interrupts your sleep and even if it helps you fall asleep, it can actually make it harder to sleep through the night and will impact the overall quality of your sleep.
- Get in Bed When You are Tired – Lying in bed while you are wide awake increases anxiety, especially in those who struggle with falling asleep. Anxiety can feed insomnia and make it more difficult to fall asleep. Try to get to bed when you start to feel sleepy.
- Get Up if You Can’t Sleep – If you are lying awake for more than 20 or 30 minutes, get up and go do something else. Not only does lying awake in bed increase anxiety, it can also confuse your body about what is supposed to happen when you go to bed. If you can’t sleep, get up and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy and then try again.
- Find a Therapist – Cognitive behavioral therapy can be very helpful for people who suffer from insomnia. Working through stress, depression, and anxiety with a therapist can alleviate these common causes of insomnia and help you get to sleep.
About Valley Sleep Center:
Since 2002, Valley Sleep Center, accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, has provided Arizona with diagnostic sleep disorder testing in a home-like atmosphere, ensuring a comfortable, relaxing experience for patients. Their Board Certified Sleep Medicine Specialists consist of experienced and knowledgeable physicians who provide expert advice across a multitude of sleep related disorders including insomnia, sleep apnea, snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, hypertension, sleepwalking, and pediatric sleep problems. They accept most insurance plans as well as Medicare. For more information contact Lauri Leadley at 480-830-3900; http://www.valleysleepcenter.com.
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