Sleep-deprived Americans are not only hurting their
heath, but the economy as well.
The U.S. economy loses up to $411 billion each year in
working days lost due to sleep deprivation, according to RAND Corporation study that
examined the effects of sleep deprivation in five industrialized countries
This translates to “an equivalent of about 1.23 million
working days due to insufficient sleep,” the research firm stated.
The lack of sleep has become so prevalent in America that
the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared insufficient sleep
a ‘public health problem.’
A CDC study found
that more than one-third of American adults are not getting enough sleep on a
Sleep deprivation has been linked to car accidents,
industrial disasters, and medical and other occupational errors.
Research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows
that drowsy drivers pose the same risks as drunk drivers.
“The estimated rate ratio for crash involvement
associated with driving after only 4-5 hours of sleep compared with 7 hours or
more is similar to the U.S. government’s estimates of the risk associated with
driving with a blood alcohol concentration equal to or slightly above the legal
limit for alcohol in the U.S,” the foundation states on
With so much at stake, why aren’t adults getting enough
Stress is the number one culprit.
A survey by
the American Psychological Association found that 42 percent of adults reported
that their sleep quality was fair or poor and 43 percent reported that stress
had caused them to lie awake at night in the past month.
Dr. Kathleen Hall, founder and CEO of The Stress
Institute and Mindful Living Network said the two biggest stressors are money
and work, but stress caused by family responsibility has increased
“We see that rising almost up to money and work,” Hall
said. “The reason is because of time. People are finding out more and more that
they don’t have time for family responsibilities and families are disintegrating,
so that’s a big concern.”
People often underestimate how detrimental stress can be
to the body, and fail to distinguish the difference between acute stress and
“Stress is the driver of most diseases,” Hall said.
“Stress is the epidemic of the 21st century. We were made to go 55 miles per
hour, and in the world we’re living in, with technology, we’re all putting our
pedal to the medal and thinking our minds, bodies and souls can go 95 (miles
per hour), and we can’t.”
According to the American Psychological Association’s
(APA) annual Stress in America Survey, 65 percent of Americans listed work as a
top stressor in 2012.
In 2013, a survey by
APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence found that more than one-third of
working Americans reported experiencing chronic work-related stress, with just
36 percent of participants reporting that their employers provide sufficient
resources to help them manage that stress.
Hall said employers need to train supervisors and
managers to recognize the symptoms of stress in the workplace and provide
resources to combat it.
“It’s absolutely unconscionable, it should be illegal,”
Hall said. “We should tax corporations and punish them in some vein — whether
its taxation or however it would hurt their bottom line – if they don’t have
proactive stress management, stress reduction and mindfulness programs.”
A second reason American adults are sleep deprived is due
to excessive electronic media use. Although technology has improved our lives
in many ways, many adults are unable to resist the pull from electronic media.
Jan Van den Bulck, a media-effects researcher and a
Communication Studies professor at the University of Michigan, said limiting
the amount of time spent on electronic media devices, especially at night, is
“Self-control is like a battery or a muscle – it wears
out during the day by using it,” Van den Bulck said. “So by definition, it’s at
its lowest right before bed — at the very moment where we need to resist the
pull from the media.”
Van den Bulck said one of the ways society can fight back
against technology interfering with our sleep is by setting boundaries. This
might include company-wide policies discouraging sending and receiving work-related
emails at night.
“Maybe as a society we’re asking too much of individuals
when we expect them to answer emails within the next couple of hours, and when
as a society we keep sending them to you at all hours of the day,” Van den
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