Sleep is the most important factor that underpins everything, if you are not sleeping you are sacrificing your health, well-being, longevity and performance (both work and sporting).
Being good at sleep is not like being good at sport or business, you don’t win any awards for being a great sleeper! Sleep is something that is traditionally private, until it being bad at it begins to seep into other areas of your life, such as when your health begins to decline or your focus starts wavering while at work.
Some will use lack of sleep as a badge of honor, stating that they can train, work, and be more productive with all the spare time gained from not sleeping. We all know these people that claim the amount of hours of sleep that they don’t have time for and that they function optimally with minimal sleep. In fact there is even a “sleepless elite,” like Barack Obama, Dean Karnazes, Martha Stewart, and Marissa Mayer. Who claim to sleep only four or five hours a night. However, I would argue 99.99 percent of the time, they are lying to themselves. They are instead functioning at a suboptimal level and the cost of this is their health. Sure there is variance in optimal amount of sleep needed from person to person, but it is by no means this drastic.
The average night’s sleep today equates to approximately 6.9 hrs whereas in 1910 the average was 9 hrs! That is a substantial decline in a short period of time and we are paying for it!
Close to home in Australia a study published in March this year calculated the financial and nonfinancial costs associated with inadequate sleep for the year of 2016–2017 (US dollars). “The estimated total financial cost of $17.88 billion represents 1.55% of Australian gross domestic product. The estimated nonfinancial cost of $27.33 billion represents 4.6% of the total Australian burden of disease for the year.”
If you cast your mind back to the disaster at: Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, The gas leak at Bhopal, The Zeebrugge ferry accident, The Exxon Valdez oil spill. When you do a little research, you’ll find that these and many other major industrial disasters have been directly linked to sleep deprivation. Therefore, the financial cost associated with lack of sleep has great potential to be significantly higher.
With the ‘24/7’ society there is no ‘off’ switch and with the increasing night time use of TV, internet and mobile phones this means adequate amounts of uninterrupted sleep is becoming increasingly compromised. With this paradigm shift to 24/7 society, we have more shift workers who are required to service the needs of our society. I am sure everyone knows someone that works night shift. This roster exposes them to significant circadian disruption which is likely to add to the growing financial cost of sleep deprivation seen at the workplace. Quite a scary thing to think about when a lot of the shift workers are those that work in healthcare. To put this in perspective 100,000 deaths occur each year in US hospitals due to medical errors and sleep deprivation.
Sleep loss is happening across the population spectrum from children, students to adults. We are all affected. The table below from a 2004 study in America highlights children of various age groups and clearly identifies their lack of sleep, with many not even achieving the desired number of sleep hours. A study done with Auckland University students in New Zealand showed that a large number (39.4%) of university students where suffering from significant sleep deprivation symptoms. What was interesting and shocking from this study was that students were presenting with clinically significant levels of depression (~17.3% of students) and anxiety (~19.7% of students).
Sleep across a 24hr period (2004 America Study):
|Age Group||Suggested (hrs)||Average sleep (hrs)|
|School aged Children||10-11||9.5|
(Note: All sleep times are averages.)
Hopefully this has started to highlight to you the impact of sleep and its importance. As I mentioned at the beginning, sleep underpins everything and if you are lacking in that department you are functioning at a suboptimal level and accelerating the aging process.
Stay tuned for the rest of the month of August as we provide you with the tricks and tools to hack your sleep and get you back to performing at your best.
Adams, R., Appleton, S., Taylor, A., & Antic, N. (2016). Report to the Sleep Health Foundation 2016 Sleep Health Survey of Australian Adults The Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health.
Aurora, R. N., Collop, N. A., Jacobowitz, O., Thomas, S. M., Quan, S. F., & Aronsky, A. J. (2015). Quality Measures for the Care of Adult Patients with, 11(3).
Ferrie, J. E., Kumari, M., Salo, P., Singh-manoux, A., & Kivima, M. (2018). Sleep epidemiology — a rapidly growing field, (October 2011), 1431–1437. https://doi.org/10.1093/ije/dyr203
Hillman, D., Mitchell, S., Streatfeild, J., Burns, C., Bruck, D., & Pezzullo, L. (2018). The economic cost of inadequate sleep, (July), 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsy083
Report, M. W. (2011). National Sleep Awareness Week Unhealthy Sleep-Related Behaviors, 60(8), 2005–2008.
Samaranayake, C. B., Arroll, B., & Fernando, A. T. (2014). THE NEW ZEALAND, 127(1399), 13–22.
Smaldone, A., Honig, J. C., & Byrne, M. W. (2007). Sleepless in America : Inadequate Sleep and Relationships to Health and Well-being of Our Nation ’ s Children, 119(February), 29–37. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2006-2089F