Do your employees get enough sleep? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, sleep deprivation is a public health problem. Beyond affecting public health and increasing mortality risks, it has a negative impact on work productivity. In Canada, one study found that it causes a yearly $2.4-billion loss.
The yearlong study, entitled “Why sleep matters — the economic costs of insufficient sleep: a cross-country comparative analysis”, was completed by the RAND Corporation in five OECD countries and made public 2016.
The results show that losses caused by workers’ sleep deprivation equal 1.34% of GDP and yearly constitute 80,000 lost workdays. In terms of annual economic losses caused by insufficient sleep, Canada is nevertheless in fifth place behind the United States ($411 billion), Japan ($138 billion), Germany ($60 billion), and the United Kingdom ($50 billion).
The study mentions the excessive use of electronic devices; stress; alcohol, sugar, or tobacco consumption; lack of exercise; irregular schedules; financial worries; and long commutes as factors preventing workers from getting enough sleep.
Less Sleep and an Earlier Death?
The study suggests that an increasing number of people get less than the recommended amount of sleep. In the United States, more than a third of the population is sleep deprived. A person who regularly sleeps less than 6 hours per night has a 13% greater mortality risk compared to someone who sleeps 7 to 9 hours. Sleep deprivation is linked to 7 of the most frequent causes of death, such as cardiovascular diseases. Workers who regularly sleep less than 6 hours per night lose 6 more workdays yearly due to absenteeism than workers sleeping 7 to 9 hours.
The researchers noted that even small improvements in sleep habits can have a significant economic impact. For example, if those who get less than 6 nightly hours of sleep were to get 6 to 7 hours, $12 billion would be saved in Canada.
In conclusion, researchers recommend that employers recognize the importance of sleep and their role promoting better sleep hygiene. They should provide better-lit workspaces, try to decrease psychological risk factors at work, and discourage employees’ excessive use of electronic devices. For these purposes, they can develop policies that rein in expectations about timeframes for email responses outside the office.
For their part, employees should adopt better health practices, try to wake up at a consistent time, and avoid using electronic devices before going to bed. Public authorities also have a role to play in raising awareness about these issues among health professionals and employers and promoting a later start for classes.