In a world where society is constantly obsessing over the appearance of age, you’d think that more people would prioritize a solid sleep regimen. As researchers from UCLA point out, even one night of insufficient sleep can make an adult’s cells age faster. There’s a reason they call it “beauty sleep.”
Conversations about this deficit tend to revolve around what it does to the individual’s mind and body. Those consequences certainly matter, but did you know there is also a correlation between sleep and cold, hard cash? By understanding the impacts of sleep deprivation and how you can address the problem, you might enjoy a healthier bank account instead of just dreaming about one.
We intuitively understand that not getting enough sleep is a bad thing. We feel it in our bones, our demeanor, and the pace of our day. But when you actually break down the impacts of poor sleep on our person and lives, those feelings get an uncomfortable depth and texture.
The most easily recognizable consequence of sleep deprivation is the toll it takes on our bodies. Failure to get enough sleep means your body is “on” all the time, requiring significant energy to keep your body’s systems firing on all cylinders. The problem compounds as restless nights add up. Your body never gets a chance to restore its energy reserves.
Without restorative rest, our bodies become vulnerable to a wide range of health complications, including:
All of this can directly impact our state of mind and work quality. The very human cost of a shorter life expectancy, though, is most important. Your insistence that you’ll sleep when your dead could hold more truth than you realize.
During the course of a regular workday, you are learning new information, performing tasks, and using technology. Doing that well requires a certain level of focus that sleep deprivation denies. Experts have found that sleep-associated focus problems result in symptoms on par with conditions like ADHD, including increased distractibility and diminished attention to detail.
This is uniquely relevant in the context of physical risk. Researchers estimate that decreasing your sleep by only 1.5 hours results in a 32% decrease in alertness during waking hours. As a result, sleep-deprived workers are 70% more likely to be involved in workplace accidents. Some evidence indicates that roughly 13% of all workplace accidents are due to poor sleep.
It also affects our ability to retain information. Research from the National Institute of Health shows that sleep-deprived employees retain about 40% less information than their well-rested counterparts.
The combination of poor focus and information retention has serious ramifications. Your accuracy, pace of work, and response times all suffer. By how much? One study determined that even moderate sleep deprivation had the same effect on cognition as alcohol intoxication.
Getting along with others is an important part of most jobs. Positive work relationships enable you to be part of a collaborative effort and contribute meaningfully to meetings and projects. These relationships play a critical role in advancing your career, as well.
Research suggests that sleep deprivation hurts your ability to build and sustain productive workplace relationships. Increased irritability and stymied decision-making skills may cause you to lose your temper easily or interfere with your judgment in communicating with others. Given that other studies confirm likeability plays a central role in securing favorable performance reviews, your lack of sleep could directly impact your career trajectory.
The impacts of sleep deprivation on our health, well-being, and job performance are severe and many. They are also quantifiable in terms of personal finance.
Sleep deprivation may hurt your work to the point that you miss out on promotions or raises. In the long term, that hurts your overall financial health. A 2018 article in The Review of Economics and Statistics found that sleep-deprived professionals make 5% less in lifetime earnings than those with healthy sleep habits.
Severe sleep issues can eat through your savings, as well. One study calculated that individuals with insomnia faced healthcare costs 80% higher than those without. When you live in the only high-income country in the world without guaranteed healthcare coverage with costs twice as high as the next closest developed nation, that’s a huge expense.
When extrapolating all the data that figures into calculating the personal cost of sleep deprivation, we realize just how expensive a tired workforce can get.
As health issues mount, lack of sleep leads to more missed work. A 2022 survey from Gallup showed that those reporting poor sleep had missed an average of 2.81 days of work in the prior month, compared to .91 days for those who felt they were sleeping well. The result? American businesses lose over $44 billion a year on unplanned absenteeism alone. And that doesn’t account for reduced productivity when sleep workers do show up.
According to a RAND sleep study, the overall annual economic cost of poor sleep in the US is $411 billion. Globally, sleep deprivation is responsible for a 3% loss in GDP. We’re talking trillions of dollars in economic output.
If the price of poor sleep is this high, it might be time to chase the returns on a good night’s rest.
If you’re one of the many who struggle to get the right amount of high-quality sleep at night, don’t dismay. By taking steps big and small, you can improve your sojourns through the land of nod.
Sleep hygiene refers to the practices and habits used to encourage healthy rest. Think about it like tricking your mind. Things like going to bed at the same time every night and building a routine of things you do before lying down can program your body and brain to follow a rhythm delivering consistent quality sleep.
Pay attention to where you sleep, too. Our surroundings are often a reflection of our psychological state. When your bedroom turns into a mess, it usually correlates with heightened stress. That pile of clothes in the corner, unclosed drawers, and a disorganized dresser top remind you of all the work left undone in the day, keeping your mind busy with to-do lists instead of rest. Just as clutter in the office hurts productivity, clutter in the bedroom hurts productive sleep.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Everything from lighting to scent can influence how much sleep you get.
Maintain a sleep environment conducive to slowing your body and brain down. Beyond making your bed and putting dirty laundry in the hamper, how does one do that?
We all know that poor nutrition can interfere with proper body functioning and compromise our health. It increases a person’s risk factors in many of the same health categories as poor sleep does. When you mix the two together, those risks surge ever higher.
An unhealthy diet and poor sleep habits feed on one another, too. For instance, those who consume excess sodium (90% of the country) tend to enjoy less quality sleep. In the meantime, those who sleep less tend to eat more – even if it’s just due to being awake for longer – increasing the likelihood of obesity.
Healthier eating might be the easiest variable in that equation to control. From balanced meals to taking vitamins, making smarter choices regarding what you put in your body can make a huge difference.
People today are more sedentary than ever. According to a 2022 report from the CDC, nearly a quarter of Americans are considered “physically inactive.” That has a ripple effect in terms of weight, risk factors for disease, mental health stability, and more. It also directly affects the duration and depth of sleep.
This interaction presents yet another situation where two problems compound upon one another. If you’re not sleeping well, you might not have the energy to be more physically active throughout the day. When physical activity levels are lower than they should be, your sleep suffers.
You don’t need to attend daily CrossFit classes to improve your health and sleep. Medical experts say that just 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (even just walking) can speed up sleep onset times and improve your quality of rest. It can improve your energy and cognitive processing, too!
In our “rise-and-grind-hustle-hard” culture, we constantly seek ways to “up our game” – even when it costs us precious hours of sleep. It should come as no surprise that the coffee market segment in the US alone is worth more than $90 billion annually, with the energy drink segment worth roughly $47 billion.
Beyond midday crashes, withdrawal headaches, and diminished oral health, excessive caffeine consumption can completely undermine attempts at getting rest. One study found that consuming caffeine even six hours before bed decreases your total sleep duration by an hour.
Things we usually refer to as “relaxing” can be similarly detrimental. For example, despite colloquial references to “stress smoking,” the nicotine in cigarettes is a stimulant. Smokers are more likely to experience sleepiness during the day, with one cigarette four hours before bedtime resulting in major sleep interference.
There is a similar disconnect between our assumptions about alcohol and sleep. As a depressant, the sedative qualities of alcohol can quicken sleep onset. The duration of your sleep, however, will be shorter with more interruptions.
The bottom line? Limiting when and how much you consume substances like these can significantly change your sleep experience.
Sometimes poor sleep is a result of chemical imbalances in the body. On other occasions, outside circumstances beyond our control render small solutions ineffective. In such cases, you might need more support in pursuing better sleep.
For some people, steps like drinking teas with sedative properties or over-the-counter supplements like melatonin will do the trick. Others may require help from a medical professional. Given the health and financial consequences associated with sleep deprivation, those interventions can be more than worth it.
While you may have decided long ago that a few extra wrinkles are the price you’re willing to pay for additional hours making money at work, you are likely paying more than you bargained for on all fronts. From dollar signs to sanity, we’re writing unnecessary checks we can ill afford.
Sleep isn’t a luxury. Pulling an all-nighter is no badge of honor. Real, meaningful rest is a necessity if you want to excel. People like Tim Cook, Jack Dorsey, Floyd Mayweather, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Sheryl Sandberg, Malcolm Gladwell, Ariana Huffington, and Lebron James know that first hand.
If you hope to emulate their success, follow their lead. Get that beauty rest. You’ll face a prettier world in the morning.
We know getting a good night’s rest is easier said than done – especially if you’re running a startup. Don’t lose sleep over work. Make sure you have all your bases covered with our Startup Advisor on-demand webinar series today! You’ll learn more about topics like:
For more information about our on-demand webinar series, click here.
This is an updated version of an article published in December 2017. ©2023. DailyDACTM, LLC d/b/a/ Financial PoiseTM. This article is subject to the disclaimers found here.
Mercedes is a business owner and the Executive Consultant with Rodan + Fields. In addition, she works in the field of behavior analysis for children with autism and their families, specializing in preschool-aged children. She also has her Masters in Science from the University of California at Davis. Share this page: