Sleep Deprivation in the Workplace and What it’s Costing You

Dr. Craig Hudson, MD | June 29, 2017


Sleepless nights are one of the most widespread issues plaguing today’s workforce. In many developed countries, over half of the employed population is more than likely to have experienced at least one of the symptoms of insomnia. On average, six hours of sleep seems to be typical for these members of the workforce.

It doesn’t sound so bad at first… until you look at the numbers.

Sleep Deprivation Leads to Significant Economic Loss

Sleep deprivation might be the norm, but it certainly isn’t healthy and it isn’t productive either. According to a study conducted by RAND Europe, there are economic detriments to sleeplessness that is costing employers and countries as a whole, millions of dollars.

Of the countries researchers assessed, the US and Japan held the top positon for economic losses, losing out on $411 billion per year and $138 billion per year, respectively. Of course, these values take into account the full scope of the economic drain sleep deprivation can cause, including costs related to supporting a population in poor health.

Productivity Decline: Millions of Working Days Lost

Narrowing the scope a little, let’s look at the specific impact sleep loss can have on the workforce. RAND Europe’s investigation revealed that in the US 1.23 million working days were lost, with Japan following close behind at 604 thousands days lost. The UK loses 207 thousand days, while Germany’s count is 209 thousand and Canada trails behind with 78 thousand working days lost.

These lost days aren’t just made up of employees calling in sick. A huge contributing element is decreased productivity. It is no secret that sleep deprivation can impair and inhibit cognitive function. Overall, this leads to poor performance and lower productivity.

Getting less than the optimal level of sleep, night after night, has a deteriorating effect on the brain. Insomniacs often experience issues like short term memory loss, extreme fatigue, slowed reflexes, diminished creativity, and trouble with critical thinking. Now consider that an employee (or an entire workforce) with these symptoms is far more susceptible to making mistakes and turning in subpar work. All in all, a lose-lose for everyone.  

Employers Should Invest in Their Employees’ Sleep

Comparatively, the cost of investing in well-rested employees is minimal compared to the consequences of employing sleep deprived workers. Something as simple as offering an educational workshop on healthy sleeping habits, or instituting a less demanding workflow system could have a drastically positive impact.

Other ideas that involve a little more investment include: making sure the working environment is well-lit to encourage a healthy sleep cycle; and providing employees with sleep tech that can help them monitor their sleep quality.

Did you enjoy this article? Check out the rest of the Zenbev blog for even more information on sleep quality and how to beat sleep deprivation!