Why better sleep means a better society

The best innovations are those that allow people to live healthier, more fulfilling lives, that address a deeply held need to improve their typical days — and sometimes nights.

Researchers believe that the optimum sleep time is seven to nine hours a day, though studies have shown that a third of adults get only six hours (which can lead to sleep deprivation).
Along with diet and exercise, sufficient sleep is essential for efficient functioning and long-term wellness. Sleep deprivation is not only dangerous, but impairs business efficiency, affects mood and judgment, and represents a huge, yet largely unrecognised, cost burden to society as a whole.
Part of the problem—especially in today's digital age—is that we are 'always on', and that can lead to sleep deprivation. It's not just TV, but phones, computers and emails.

Researchers believe that the optimum sleep time is seven to nine hours a day, though studies have shown that a third of adults only get six".


Sleep Health: A shared responsibility, CNBC Innovation Cities 2014

Our work and home lives have blurred, leading to additional stresses and sleepless nights — a problem that can be solved if individuals, stakeholders and business partner each other effectively to try and drive breakthrough innovations that can have a significant impact on people’s lives and thus business growth.
There are also significant opportunities for cutting medical bills, because sleep deprivation can lead to other, more worrying health issues. Identifying the problem is the first major step.

100 000

car crashes a year in the U.S. are caused by drowsy driving. These crashes result in 40 000 injuries and 1550 deaths.


Citation: Drowsy Driving and Automobile Crashes, NCSDR/NHTSA Expert Panel on Driver Fatigue and Sleepiness

In collaboration with University of Twente, Medisch Spectrum Twente (MST) Hospital and patient organisation ApneuVereniging in the Netherlands, Philips recently completed a two-year, large-scale study on obstructive sleep apnoea—a condition in which a person’s breathing either pauses or becomes extremely shallow during sleep—and found that over 6% suffered from sleep apnoea. Even more startling, it found that 78% of those diagnosed were unaware they were suffering from the sleep apnoea disorder.
"Sleep deprivation is more dangerous than you might think", says Dr Michiel Eijsvogel, a pulmonologist at the MST Hospital. "Due to the disruption it causes to sleep patterns, sufferers get less rest at night, become tired, are sleepy during the day, perform increasingly poorly at work and have a quick temper. They often attribute symptoms to stress or pressure". Fortunately, an innovative new screening method developed for the study can identify sleep apnoea at an earlier stage, and simple and effective treatment options are available.
Furthermore, companies seeking profitable growth must foster a caring and impactful environment that supports sleep health. Organisations exploring ways to address fatigue among workers can consult occupational health doctors for guidance, but many inexpensive, sustainable solutions are also available, such as giving staff additional breaks, flexible work hours and developing programmes in which employees receive a lift home if they feel sleepy after their shift.
Workplace lighting can also play a role. A study on workplace lighting at Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Indiana, showed that nurses and shift workers not only exhibited enhanced morale, but they also performed better after exposure to brighter light in their lounge. Companies that care about employees should recognise that productivity at the sacrifice of sleep cannot be sustained in the long term.
Finally, society bears a responsibility to promote safety and success. For a start, this includes education and advocacy for legislation. While laws in many countries regulate sleep-work time for pilots, lorry drivers and shift workers, an opportunity exists to regulate and help prevent sleep deprivation for employees in many more high-risk fields, including medicine.
Perhaps most importantly, governments and stakeholders should invest more money in better understanding sleep-work challenges — the more we know about sleep, the more we can do to improve society, business reputations, growth and allow people to lead healthier lives.

An Australia study gave the cost of sleeplessness at 0.8% of its GDP.

True. The total financial cost of sleep disorders was AUS$ 4,524 million which is 0.8% of the Australian GDP. Citation: US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health

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