Why lack of sleep is costing us billions of dollars

Larry Alton
The United States is the global leader in economic losses from bad sleep habits.
Manuel Breva Colmeiro | Getty Images

Everyone wishes they could get more done in a day, but there are extenuating circumstances, personal weaknesses, and sometimes, random factors that get in the way of us achieving our highest levels of productivity. You might experience a bit of extra stress, give in to a few extra distractions and deal with a finnicky internet connection on any given day, but there's one factor that rises above the others in terms of its collective role in sabotaging our productivity — and it's costing us a cumulative $411 billion in productivity losses.

Sleep deprivation is hurting our economy

RAND Europe, a non-profit organization, realized what most of us know intrinsically — bad sleep habits have a negative impact on work performance — but researchers wanted to quantify the effects. They found that a person who, on average, sleeps less than six hours a night has a 13 percent higher risk of mortality than a counterpart sleeping seven-to-nine hours a night.

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On top of that, they found that the United States was the global leader in economic losses from bad sleep habits, losing approximately 2.92 percent of its total GDP due to sleep deprivation. That's a whopping $411 billion of lost productivity, or approximately 1.2 million working days per year.

How bad sleep affects our performance on the job

How can sleep have such a big impact on our productivity? After all, most of us have long given up on getting a consistent eight hours a night. But it turns out neglecting sleep has a multitude of negative consequences, all of which can affect our work performance:

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6 strategies to make sleep a priority

So what can you do about your own personal sleep habits?

1) Make your sleep schedule a priority

First and foremost, you need to make your sleep a top priority. Sleep isn't something to cram into the last bits of the day; it's something to schedule, like you would anything else. There are few tasks and responsibilities that can't wait until the next day, so cut yourself off early and get those extra hours of rest.

2) Invest in a better mattress

The type of mattress you have can significantly affect your sleep quality; this is one area you don't want to skimp. Research the different types of mattresses that are out there, and find the best fit for you. You'll be amazed what a difference it can make.

3) Stop staying up late

If you're like most American professionals, you stay up late catching up on emails and doing other online work. Unfortunately, that added stress and exposure to blue light can interfere with your ability to wind down for the day — so stop working a few hours before you go to bed.

These tips will help you overcome work stress to get some sleep
These tips will help you overcome work stress to get some sleep

4) Get up at the same time every day

Even if you can't get the full seven-to-nine hours, try to get up at the same time every morning. This will help you find consistency in your sleep, leading to fuller sleep cycles and an easier time waking up and feeling alert.

5) Lead a healthy lifestyle

Simple changes, such as eating healthier foods, exercising regularly and cutting back on caffeine and alcohol can all improve your ability to sleep. This may take some extra time, but it will help you sleep better — and more importantly, you'll feel better.

6) Find an outlet for your stress

Excessive stress can make anyone an insomniac. Find an outlet, whether it's physical exercise, yoga, meditation or just more personal time to enjoy.

You may not notice the difference immediately, but once you start sleeping more consistently, and in full, you'll be able to accomplish more every day — more than enough to make up for the time you'll spend getting those few extra hours. Maintaining a better sleep schedule isn't impossible, no matter how busy you are, and even small changes can make a big impact in your performance. Stop making excuses and start getting more sleep.

This article originally appeared on NBC News.

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