Sleep deprivation ‘costs £40bn a year in lost productivity and higher mortality’

A lack of sleep among the UK working population is costing the economy up to £40 billion a year or 1.86 per cent of the country’s GDP, a new report finds.

Exhausted woman


According to researchers at the not-for-profit research organisation RAND Europe, sleep deprivation leads to a higher mortality risk and lower productivity levels among the workforce, which, when combined, has a significant impact on a nation’s economy.

A person who sleeps on average less than six hours a night has a 13 percent higher mortality risk than someone sleeping between seven and nine hours, researchers found, while those sleeping between six and seven hours a day have a seven percent higher mortality risk. Sleeping between seven and nine hours per night is described as the “healthy daily sleep range”.

In total, the UK loses just over 200,000 working days a year due to sleep deprivation among its working population, says the report. Productivity losses at work occur through a combination of absenteeism, employees not being at work and presenteeism, where employees are at work but working at a sub-optimal level.

Why sleep matters

The study – ‘Why Sleep Matters – The Economic Costs of Insufficient Sleep’– is the first of its kind to quantify the economic losses due to lack of sleep among workers in five different countries – the US, UK, Canada, Germany and Japan.

Marco Hafner, a research leader at RAND Europe and the report’s main author, says: “Our study shows that the effects from a lack of sleep are massive. Sleep deprivation not only influences an individual’s health and wellbeing but has a significant impact on a nation’s economy, with lower productivity levels and a higher mortality risk among workers.”

He continues: “Improving individual sleep habits and duration has huge implications, with our research showing that simple changes can make a big difference. For example, if those who sleep under six hours a night increase their sleep to between six and seven hours a night, this could add £24 billion to the UK economy.”

The UK loses up to $50 billion, which is 1.86 per cent of its GDP, and just over 200,000 working days as a result of sleep deprivation, says the report.

The report suggests individuals set consistent wake-up times; limit the use of electronic items before bedtime; and take physical exercise during the day to reduce sleep loss. It recommends that employers recognise the importance of sleep and the employer’s role in its promotion; design and build brighter workspaces with facilities for daytime naps; combat workplace psychosocial risks; and discourage the extended use of electronic devices after working hours. And it says public authorities should support health professionals in providing sleep-related help; encourage employers to pay attention to sleep issues; and introduce later school starting times.

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