Why better sleep means a better society

The best innovations are those that allow people to live healthier, more fulfilling lives, that address a deeply-held need to improve their typical days. And, sometimes nights.

Researchers believe that the optimum sleep time is seven to nine hours a day, though studies have shown that a third of adults get only six hours (which can lead to sleep deprivation).
Along with diet and exercise, sufficient sleep is essential to efficient functioning and long-term wellness. Sleep deprivation is not only dangerous, but impairs business efficiency, affects mood and judgment, and represents a huge, yet largely unrecognized, cost burden to society as a whole.
Part of the problem – especially in today’s digital age – is that we are ‘always on’ and that can lead to sleep deprivation. Not just TV but phones, computers, e-mails.

Researchers believe that the optimum sleep time is seven to nine hours a day, though studies have shown that a third of adults get only six."


Sleep Health: A shared responsibility, CNBC Innovation Cities 2014

Our work and home lives have blurred leading to additional stresses and sleepless nights – a problem that can be solved if individuals, stakeholders and business partner each other effectively to try and drive breakthrough innovations that can have a significant impact on people’s lives and thus business growth.
There are also significant opportunities for cutting medical bills, because sleep deprivation can lead to other, more worrying health issues. Identifying the problem is the first major step.


car crashes a year in the U.S. are caused by drowsy driving. These crashes result in 40,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths.


Citation: Drowsy driving and automobile crashes, NCSDR/NHTSA expert panel on driver fatigue and sleepiness.

In collaboration with University of Twente, Medisch Spectrum Twente (MST) Hospital and patient organization ApneuVereniging in the Netherlands, Philips recently completed a two-year, large-scale study on obstructive sleep apnea—a condition in which a person’s breathing either pauses or becomes extremely shallow during sleep – and found that over 6% suffered from sleep apnea. Even more startling, it found that 78% of those diagnosed were unaware they were suffering from the sleep apnea disorder.
“Sleep deprivation is more dangerous than you might think,” says Dr. Michiel Eijsvogel, a pulmonologist at the MST Hospital. “Due to the disruption it causes to sleep patterns, they get less rest at night, become tired, are sleepy during the day, perform increasingly poorly at work and have a quick temper. They often attribute symptoms to stress or pressure." Fortunately, an innovative new screening method developed for the study can identify sleep apnea at an earlier stage, and simple and effective treatment options are available.
Second, companies seeking profitable growth must foster a caring and impactful environment that supports sleep health. Organizations exploring ways to address worker fatigue can consult ‘occupational physicians’ for guidance, but many inexpensive sustainable solutions are also available, such as giving staff additional breaks, flexible work hours and developing programs in which employees receive a ride home if sleepy after their shift.
Workplace lighting can also play a role. A study on workplace lighting at Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Indiana, showed nurses and shift workers not only performed better and exhibited enhanced morale but their performance improved after exposure to brighter light in their lounge. Companies that care about employees should recognize that productivity at the sacrifice of sleep cannot be sustained on the long term.
Finally, society bears a responsibility to promote safety and success. To start, this includes education and advocacy for legislation. While laws in many countries regulate sleep-work time for pilots, truck drivers and shift workers, an opportunity exists to regulate and help prevent sleep deprivation of employees in many more high-risk fields, including medicine.
Perhaps most importantly, government and stakeholders should invest more money in better understanding sleep-work challenges – the more we know about sleep, the more we can do to improve society, business reputations, growth and allow people to lead healthier lives.

An Australian study gave the cost of sleeplessness at 0.8% of its GDP.

True. The total financial cost of sleep disorders was AUS$ 4,524 million which is 0.8% of the Australian GDP. Citation: US National Library of Medicine National Institues of Health

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