The High Cost of Bad Sleep: $63 Billion Per Year

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Lack of sleep has been linked to health problems like high blood pressure and even early death, and now a new study tallies another price: insomnia costs the average American worker 11.3 days, or $2,280 in lost productivity each year. That adds up to $63.2 billion (and 252.7 workdays) for the whole country.

Data were collected on a nationally representative sample of 7,428 full-time employed people, who were participating in the longitudinal American Insomnia Study. Researchers asked survey questions specifically dealing with sleep habits and work performance, and found that sleeplessness was a significant detractor from productivity.

“It’s an underappreciated problem. Americans are not missing work because of insomnia,” said lead author Ronald C. Kessler in a statement. “They are still going to their jobs but accomplishing less because they’re tired. In an information-based economy, it’s difficult to find a condition that has a greater effect on productivity.”

Nearly a quarter of the survey respondents — 23% of employees — were estimated to have insomnia, and that figure was corroborated by sleep medicine experts, who independently evaluated a subsample of the study group. Researchers also found that workers over 65 were less likely to have insomnia (14%) and that men were less likely (20%) to have trouble sleeping than women (27%).

Given that the average cost of insomnia treatment ranges from $200 a year for a sleep aid to $1,200 per year for behavior modification therapy, the study’s author suggests that screening and treating workers’ sleep issues may be worthwhile for employers.

But it’s important to note that the study, published in the journal Sleep, was funded by Merck & Co.; the original American Insomnia Study was funded by Sanofi-Aventis Groupe.

Meredith Melnick is a reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter @MeredithCM. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter @TIME.

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