Between 1975 and 2006, there was a 22% increase in people getting less than six hours of sleep per night, which ultimately impairs our decision-making abilities. This could be due to multiple factors – long shift hours, commute times, job demands, etc. Whatever the reason, insufficient sleep has been linked to several of the leading causes of death in the US, among them, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension and motor vehicle accidents. Sleep deprived employees are getting sick and missing work, and those who are working have decreased productivity levels and are high risk for industrial accidents and medical errors. Doctors and hospital interns are expected to work long shifts that allow for very little sleep, and require very intense decision-making skills. The RAND (research and development) study estimates that lack of sleep is costing the U.S. economy approximately $411 billion per year. Drowsy drivers alone account for 20% of motor vehicle accidents (according to the NHTSA that means 1 million crashes). There have been numerous high-profile disasters that have been linked to sleep deprivation like the 1979 nuclear accident at Three Mile Island and the 1986 nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl, costing the US billions of dollars. As physicians it is our duty to impress onto our patients the importance and significance of good quality sleep. We have to ability to save lives.
Please click here to read the online article on sleep as an economic burden.