How is Bad Sleep Affecting the Economy?

As George Osborne this week announced his 2013 budget, it is time perhaps to take a look at the link between sleep and the economy.

Though you may not have thought it, sleep actually plays a crucial role in our economy.

For example, if you were to take one day off through exhaustion caused by lack of sleep, this would cost your employer a day’s wage, plus any money that you would have made him that day.

Figures suggest that the average sick day costs an employer roughly £93.50 per day.

According to a study in May 2008, before Britain entered the Great Recession, it found that a quarter of Britons were taking time off of work due to a lack of sleep.

Dr Chris Idzkiowksi of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre said:

“The body needs quality sleep for learning new skills and mental agility.”

“Sleep interruptions disturb this function and can be very detrimental to everyday life, making it impossible to be productive at work and maintain a positive attitude.”

A more recent study conducted by Bupa found that sleep deprivation cost the UK economy an estimated £1.6 billion per year.

In fact, it is expected that 27% of UK workers regularly go to work unrefreshed from their sleep, with a further 50% of employees turning up fatigued at least 20 times a year.

To make matters worse, it was found that whilst tired, workers are 23% less satisfied with their job. Also, individuals with less than 8 hours sleep exhibit reduced decision-making abilities, attention lapses and cognitive deficits (such as impaired memory).


But what can you do to ensure a fresh working day?

Contrary to popular belief, enjoying a lie-in over the weekend does not actually help us catch up on lost sleep throughout the week.

In fact, according to Dr Gregory Carter of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre, weekend lie-ins actually help increase fatigue during the following week:

“A great myth of sleep deprivation is that if we miss sleep over the course of the working week, we need to catch up on an hour-by-hour basis on the weekend.

“To maintain our internal clock, we need to go to bed eight hours before our usual time for getting out of bed in the morning. Too many of us, however, stay up later on Friday and Saturday nights and choose to sleep in on Saturday and Sunday mornings.”

man asleep white bedding

The behaviour, according to Dr Carter, amplified with alcoholic consumption and late night emails, merely builds a wall of lethargy for Monday morning.

Interestingly, not every country has a sleeping problem.

In Japan, for example, it is actually seen as a form of dedication to fall asleep during working hours; the rest is called ‘inemuri’ which literally means “to be asleep while present.”

According to Doctor Neil Stanley at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, it is actually a good thing, both for business and the individual:

“The Japanese are right in their assessment that you work better after a nap than before it.

“There’s a degree of machismo about it, you’re saying look how hard I’ve worked. But that’s better than the macho rituals we have over here, like how late you can send a work email to prove how long you’ve been working.”

Though inemuri may not catch on in Britain just yet, by following basic personal rules, you can gain a better quality sleep.

  • Avoid alcohol throughout the week to achieve a higher quality of sleep.
  • As already noted, maintain at least 8 hours of sleep during the weekends, making sure that you don’t spend too much time lounging in bed.
  • Try to steer away from reading at least 30 minutes before you turn off the lights. This will help your mind relax as you fall into the first stage of sleep.
  • If you can, avoid caffeine around 4 to 8 hours before you want to go to sleep, though if you are over the age of 65, you should be looking at the latter time frame.
  • Make sure that your bed is comfortable. Quite often mattresses can be too soft or too hard. If this is the case, you may want to consider a memory foam topper or mattress.
  • If you find yourself too stressed to sleep, try and exercise after work to help you unwind.