The Economic Value of a Good Night’s Sleep

Bruce Meleski, PhD, explains how technology that lets you get restful sleep improves your energy and health.We live such busy lives that we’re stressed out and try to fit too much into each day, ignoring our sleep in hopes of getting more accomplished, but that’s effecting our health, work productivity, and sports performance.

What if I told you that not getting great sleep could easily cost you — an extra $300,000 in medical bills and more than $700,000 in net worth? Not getting great sleep could even cheat you out of some $8 million in lifetime earning capacity? Do I have your attention yet? That’s what my conservative spreadsheet model revealed.

It’s National Sleep Awareness Week, so today I write about the importance of sleep and refer to these previous articles by Dr. Bruce Meleski, an intelligent sleep consultant.

  • Sleep Balance: Your Path to Better Sleep – “It is not just the amount of sleep but also need the right type of sleep.  Slow wave sleep allows the body to restore at the cellular level.  Without this cellular repair, the risk of disease increases for obesity, diabetes, depression, and hypertension.  Loss of sleep also affects our day to day performance.  Sleep loss impacts athletic performance, memory recall, focus acuity, and reaction time.”
  • Brain Entrainment for Better Sleep and Health – We humans have many pulses, rhythms, and frequencies that can be measured and recorded, including heart rate, respiration and brain waves. This article describes the various brain frequencies as we rest, sleep, work or play, and ways to induce the desired state.

The two main types of sleep are (1) Non Rapid Eye Movement Sleep (NREM) and (2) Rapid Eye Movement (REM). NREM sleep has four stages or depth levels.

Brain Wave SimulationStage One is characterized by high frequency (fast), low amplitude (small) brain waves. As we move to Stages Two, Three and Four, the brainwaves get slower and slower (lower frequency), and bigger and bigger (larger amplitude), signaling that we are getting deeper and deeper into sleep. Each stage of sleep delivers a specific renewal, rejuvenation, and recharging function for specific systems of the body.

Most of our hormones are generated during sleep, including the human growth hormone that affects how we grow, age and metabolize food. Since this hormone is what helps keep our weight under control, poor sleep contributes to obesity, diabetes and other conditions that can shorten our lifespan and increase health care costs.

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Modeling the Economic Benefits

Poor Sleep , studies show, contributes to decreased energy and work & athletic performance, as well as memory lapses, anxiety, irritability, depression, stress, mood swings, weight gain, marital strife, and a host of health problems. These factors have a significant impact on your lifetime earnings capacity and health care costs, and they can shorten your lifespan.  As shown in the model below, not only did the person die earlier, but their health care costs were over twice as much, and their earning capacity was less than half. The model also shows that the lifetime cost of poor sleep easily exceeds $150,000 in accumulated net worth. That would have been a good inheritance for your kids.

Great Sleep, on the other hand, increases your energy, work productivity and athletic performance, and with better memory and a better attitude comes quicker and larger raises and promotions. And that offers you the ability to invest and grow your net worth more quickly. My conservative and realistic approach shows that net worth from great sleep increases over half a million dollars during a lifetime per person. If that savings could be applied to all 100+ million Americans, the total benefit of good sleep would exceed $60 trillion, so policy makers should consider ways to promote good sleep.

The model below is based on my own estimates from anecdotal evidence I’ve seen in other articles, but I’ve not seen any studies that attempt to quantify the economic value over a lifetime. If you know of credible sleep studies that quantify that value, please leave a comment pointing to them.

BASE CASE          AGE:

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

90

Healthcare Cost

$1,000

$2,000

$3,000

$4,000

$5,000

$6,500

$8,000

died

Salary w/ College

$50,000

$75,000

$105,000

$136,500

$139,230

$83,538

$40,000

Net Worth w/ House

$10,000

$25,000

$75,000

$200,000

$350,000

$300,000

$200,000

 

GREAT SLEEP

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

90

Healthcare Cost

$1,000

$1,500

$2,000

$3,000

$4,000

$5,000

$6,000

$7,000

Salary w/ College

$50,000

$90,000

$153,000

$244,800

$367,200

$220,320

$50,000

$50,000

Net Worth w/ House

$10,000

$50,000

$200,000

$400,000

$600,000

$800,000

$1,000,000

$800,000

 

POOR SLEEP

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

90

Healthcare Cost

$1,000

$3,000

$8,000

$20,000

$40,000

died

Salary w/ College

$50,000

$65,000

$78,000

$85,800

$68,640

Net Worth w/ House

$10,000

$20,000

$35,000

$50,000

$60,000

ASSUMPTIONS
Health costs increase with age.
Salary increases early on but decreases with old age and then Social Security kicks in.
Net Worth (car, home and investments) increases until old age and then declines.
Factors such as impact on family and potential divorce are not considered.

 

Invest in Good Sleep

According to this Bloomberg article, it can cost $17,000 if you were to invest in all of the items shown below.

Mattress Matters – A properly selected mattress and pillow can relieve pressure and maintain spinal alignment, but most mattress stores only carry one brand such as Tempurpedic™ or Sleep Number™. If you’re like me, it’s hard enough to compare options while hopping from one bed to another in a single store. Doing that across different stores is nearly impossible. So while mattress shopping is a very personal process, I find it quite difficult and appreciate the fact that IntelliBED™ stores carry several brands for a fair comparison, of course promoting their own.

Luxury Linens – Good quality cotton sheets with high thread count, quality yarn, stellar construction and fine finishing can dramatically affect the feel of your bedding and help lull you into slumber.

Lighting Controls – Even with your eyes closed, lighting can affect your sleep, especially if it’s too bright or varies suddenly, so consider blackout curtains or a sleep mask. Color temperature and flicker can also make a difference. Have you ever noticed the calming effect of staring into the flames of a camp fire? And once you’ve settled into bed, it’s disturbing to reach over (or get up) to turn of the lights, so consider remote controls.  Lighting systems can even integrate with HVAC and Security. (See Smarter Homes for Home Healthcare to read about home automation in my home.)

Sound Solutions – Noisy distractions make getting to sleep difficult, and it can be the loud dog next door or the nearly silent drip of a leaky faucet. Sound-proofing can be expensive, but sound dampening with carpet, drapery and soft furniture is affordable, and products that provide white noise or therapeutic music are available.

Air Quality – Cool are is best for sleeping since it helps coax the body into a hibernation-like state, so be sure you have an air conditioner, and if necessary a humidifier and air purifier.

Soothing Smells – Lavender is a relaxing smell, but other good smells are found in bedtime teas (use decaf) and bubble baths.

Stop the Snoring – The noise of snoring is caused by a vibrating obstruction in your nasal passage, but there’s often easy remedies, including using nasal strips or a good pillow that changes the position of your head. Snoring can be caused by a number of factors, including:

  • Being out of shape or overweight
  • Nasal & sinus problems
  • Sleep apnea, a disorder that affects how you breathe
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Age
  • Bad sleeping posture
  • Dry air

Enhanced by Exercise – Obesity is a cause of sleep disorders, so walk, run, or join a gym. Get a personal trainer or a support system to help you develop an exercise routine that becomes a habit and an obsession.

 

Related Articles

Besides the two articles by Dr. Mel above, here are several in the media this week which, again, is National Sleep Awareness Week. Also be sure to check out the other articles on sleep that appear on this site.

  1. What Is Sleep? Harvard Professor Explains The Power Of Rest“Susan Redline, M.D., M.P.H., professor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School, dives into the “complex, neurophysiological process” that is sleep. She explains the cyclical changes in our brain that happen throughout the day and during sleep and how sleep helps us learn, restore and rejuvenate.”
  2. How Long-term Sleep Deprivation Is Affecting Our Well-Being“Americans everywhere are sleep deprived, from our kids who are boarding school buses even before the work day begins to shift workers trying to make ends meet in a difficult financial time. Over time, that loss of sleep can lead to serious health problems, including increased risk of obesity, heart problems and stroke, among others.”
  3. The Long-Term Health Effect Of America’s Sleep Deficit“There is substantial evidence that sleep deprivation is associated with increased risk for diabetes, obesity and other chronic illnesses. Considering that chronic diseases are the leading causes of death and disability in the U.S., we should stop treating sleep as a sacrificial luxury and instead insist on it as an essential part of a healthy lifestyle.”
  4. 9 New Lessons We’ve Learned About Sleep And Health“Today kicks off National Sleep Awareness Week, the annual campaign by the National Sleep Foundation that runs from March 5 to 11 to remind people about the importance and value of sleep. Multiple studies have shown that not getting enough sleep each night is linked with poor mental performance, a bad mood, and even an increased risk of health conditions like heart disease and high blood pressure, according to the National Institutes of Health. For most adults, seven to eight hours is the prime amount of sleep to get a night, while kids and newborns require even more sleep.”
  5. Link Between Lack Of Sleep And Doctors’ Mistakes“Charles Czeisler, M.D. Ph.D., chief of the division of sleep medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, explains why the medical profession doesn’t set a very good example when it comes to getting the sleep you need.” He cites lots of good statistics.
  6. Sleep Vacations, Away and at Home“Getting enough sleep on a regular basis is a key part of living a healthful life. So whether you’re hitting up a five-star sleep hotel or giving yourself a sleep weekend at home, keep in mind that the ultimate goal is to bring more sleep into your daily life.”
  7. 8 Celebrities Having Trouble Sleeping – “While celebrities often seem immune to many of the health problems that plague us here in normal-town — do they ever not look fabulous in a bikini? And when has someone ever walked the red carpet with a cold? — there are several famous faces who have opened up about an important health issue that can lead to a host of serious complications: They can’t sleep! According to the National Sleep Foundation, 60 percent of Americans between the ages of 13 and 64 experience a sleep problem every night or almost every night.”
  8. ‘LINSOMNIA’: How Adrenaline Can Keep You Up At Night“New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin may no longer be sleeping on a couch, but his teammates are having trouble sleeping altogether. ‘It’s hard to sleep at night, to be honest,’ Knicks small forward Steve Novak said in a March 1 radio interview with host Mike Francesa. ‘We have a lot of guys who have trouble sleeping at night.’ Looks like ‘Linsanity’ has turned into a good old-fashioned case of ‘Linsomnia.’ ‘We actually had a meeting today before practice with a doctor to talk about ways to help you sleep at night,’ Novak continued.”
  9. An Insomniac Mom Begs You to Stop Talking About Your Sleep“Becoming a parent was to insomnia what a box of cupcakes and a gallon drum of Hershey’s chocolate syrup is to diabetes. What can be managed under the best of circumstances is now a full-scale crisis that has been ignited by the sweet nectar of parenthood.”
  10. Why Dreams Are Vital To Emotional Health“Does insomnia cause depression? Does depression cause insomnia? Chronic insomnia is strongly associated with mood disorders, but which way does the causality run?”
  11. Sleep Vacations, At Home and Away“Is sleep tourism the next big thing? Around the world, hotels, spas, and even nightclubs are designing getaways that cater to a sleep-deprived clientele. Here are a few of the most indulgent sleep getaways from around the world.”
  12. Are Your Sleep Types Compatible?This Valentine’s Day article includes an interactive infographic to answer that question and suggests that, “More than a quarter of cohabitating adults in the U.S. report that their partner’s sleep problems — everything from sleep talking to late night TV watching — negatively affect the quality of their shut-eye.”
  13. The Sleeptracker Elite Alarm Watch“This is a watch that will not only keep track of how well you have slept but it will give you a nice report — showing you how well or poorly you slept. If there is an indication that there is an issue; the report can then be given to your doctor.”
  14. NPR: Apps For Apnea? New Gadgets Promise To Improve Sleep “Technology is sometimes blamed for keeping us awake at night, but a batch of new apps and gadgets tries to push the pendulum the other way, by helping you improve the quality of your sleep.” Products mentioned include: Sleep Cycle for iOS, Sleep Bot Tracker for Android, Wakemate app, Lark, Zeo Sleep Manager Mobile, and the SleepTracker Elite watch.
  15. Dr. Oz on How to Sleep Better“Once upon a time, you could sleep like a baby. Now you’d be lucky to get a full eight hours of peaceful, uninterrupted slumber. Here’s how to rest easy again.”
  16. Insomnia in the U.S. is still a pressing Public Health Problem, study shows “Nearly a quarter of adults are unhappy with their sleep patterns, while up to 10 percent meet the criteria for full-fledged insomnia — putting them at a greater risk for depression, hypertension and diabetes.”
  17. NovaSom offers cellular-enabled home sleep testNovaSom, which makes home tests for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) unveiled an FDA-cleared OSA test kit that leverages Verizon Wireless’ cellular network to wirelessly collect and transfer sleep data up to a cloud-based platform for physician interpretation and diagnosis.”
  18. One New Year’s Resolution Worth Keeping: Get More Sleep, by Dr. David White – “One early indicator of sleep deprivation is a loss of the ability to maintain attention or stay focused on a given task. Most of us can rise to the occasion and concentrate for a short period of time with generally good results. But, for activities like driving, or any task requiring over five to 10 minutes of serious concentration, inadequate sleep leads to poor outcomes.”
  19. Six Ways to Sleep Better, by Hanna Brooks Olsen – “Insomnia and sleep disorders don’t just mean you can’t fall asleep — they can also impact your quality of sleep. Even if you sleep a full seven or eight hours, if your sleep quality is low (i.e., not enough deep, restful sleep), your body does all kinds of wonky things that basically make it hard to exist.”
  20. Sleep Less, Eat More?“Skimping on sleep may significantly increase the number of calories consumed in a day. A new study finds that individuals who are sleep deprived may eat up to more than 500 additional calories, compared to someone getting enough sleep.”
  21. Can Sleep Affect Your Weight? On ABC News, Dr. Charles Bae explains how lack of sleep can lead to weight gain.
  22. iPads In The Bedroom? Why Bringing Screens To Bed Is A Bad Idea“A recent survey found that 68% of tablet owners use the device in the bedroom, more than in any other location.”
  23. The Need for Sleep to Stay Healthy – Correspondent Barry Petersen reports that “One-third of all Americans face health risks, some severe, by not getting the recommended amount of sleep.”
  24. Your Body Clock: How Aging Eyes Can Disrupt Your Sleep“Circadian rhythms — our own internal biological “clock” — govern our sleep-wake cycle and several other daily rhythms of the body. It’s a complicated and finely-tuned system of hormonal and bio-chemical reactions that helps us live in rhythm with the 24-hour day.”
  25. Spring Forward with these Sleep Gadgets – USA Today’s Alice Truong covers Zeo sleep monitor (video below), Sleep Tracker, Omron’s wireless sleep monitors, Philips Wake-Up Light, and SleepPhones.
  26. Lack Of Sleep Could Decrease The Potency Of Vaccine – New research shows that regularly getting fewer than six hours of sleep a night is linked with an 11.5-fold increased risk of not actually being protected from a vaccine.
  27. Sleep deprivation has genetic consequences, study finds – Researchers say a lack of sleep affects the function of genes related to stress and cell renewal, contributing to poor health.

 

4 Responses to “The Economic Value of a Good Night’s Sleep”

  • I posted a link to this article in a Linkedin group on Light Therapy, and it has started a discussion of sleep benefits among sleep experts worldwide.

    Douglas Steel pointed me to the website for the National Sleep Foundation (www.sleepfoundation.org) and several statistics there, but I found them less than credible and responded:

    I found the statistics you cited but can’t believe them. $18 billion/year in lost US worker productivity is just $116/year per worker. That’s only 2.6 hours per year or 3.2 minutes per day, based on US Census data of 154 million employed individuals earning an average of $88,000 per year.

    I can’t claim that my model is gospel either, but I do think it’s a more reasonable start at estimating the costs, and I hope others can poke holes in my assumptions or provide other credible data.

    What I tried to do with my model was to put the value of good sleep into terms that everyday consumers can relate to and that might influence their behavior. I’d like to find a similar approach to quantify sleep value for other stakeholders, including employers, policy makers, health care providers, insurance companies, and product manufacturers. The $18 billion per year Sleep Foundation estimate is not credible enough, in my opinion, to post on my website to support the Good Sleep message.

    Total employer benefits must include the trickle-down effects, including increased productivity that leads to better competitiveness and market share. Total social benefits must include the impact on lives saved from fewer accidents, the healthcare system from less chronic illness, auto & health insurance premiums, increased GDP and tax revenue, and the impact on global competition.

  • Gail Desilvio:

    Sleep masks can really help me and it also makes the quality of my sleep even better. i really love sleep masks.

  • Kena Regelman:

    Another tip that helps when trying to find a sleep mask is that you want a mask that has a mid to high level of light blocking. Look for a layer of what is know as blackout material. It ought to be sewn into the mask. And, look for the contour of the mask. Check the mask for high quality padding that should be around the entire mask. Masks differ in their contour and just how much of the mask covers the eyes and component of the face. Still yet another important feature to look for is the weight of the mask. Some masks are heavier than others as a result of the type of material that is used. Additional padding will make the mask a bit heavier however it will work much better to keep the light out.

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