The price of sleep - how much does fatigue cost us?

Sleep is important – we all know it. But how important?

The report by the Sleep Health Foundation in August 2017, ‘Asleep on the job; Costs of inadequate sleep in Australia’, details the burden sleep deprivation has on the Australian economy, as well as cost per individual. 

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As of the date the of the study:

“- Health system costs of $1.8 billion, or $246 per person with inadequate sleep;
- Productivity losses of $17.9 billion, or $2,418 per person with inadequate sleep;
- Informal care costs of $0.6 billion, or $82 per person with inadequate sleep;
- And other financial costs, including deadweight losses, of $5.9 billion, or $802 per person with inadequate sleep.”

A lot can be saved financially if we make a concerted effort to get enough sleep. But it’s not just the dollars that are important.

The NSW Government announced last month that they will be spending $55 million on the new Mentally Healthy Workplace Strategy. This is the most any government body in Australia has ever spend on a mental health program. Wellbeing and is at the forefront of the WHS world at the moment and needs to be considered seriously.

Sleep is an important part of wellbeing and while it takes up a third of our life, many people don’t value it as much as they should.

The Harvard Medical School confirm this saying that ‘sleep and mental health are closely linked. Sleep deprivation affects your psychological state and mental health’. Poor sleep and ongoing partial sleep deprivation can increase the likelihood of metal illnesses as well as a general poor mental state. 

Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and insomnia require medical and professional advice; but simply having bad sleeping habits can be much more easily changed if you are willing to try.

For employers, a rested workforce will be more productive and happier. It helps create a mentally healthy workplace. While the responsibility is on the individual to ensure they get enough sleep, there are some things the employer can consider:

  • Extended hours of work
  • Shift work
  • Time of day/work design
  • Breaks

When it comes to the real change, unfortunately it’s down to the individual to make a difference. And it’s all the same things you’ve heard before.

  1. Set regular sleep hours 
  2. Spend more time outside during the day
  3. Avoid screens an hour before sleep (we all find this hard!)
  4. Exercise regularly
  5. Wind down and relax in the evenings
  6. The biggest one: GET SOME WORK LIFE BALANCE!

They’re all things we know and have heard a million times. But we know the feeling when you’ve had a good night of rest and don’t arrive at work the next morning with sore eyes. That’s something we should be constantly aiming for.

It’s a work in progress for all of us but it’s worth putting the time into to improve our mental wellbeing.

Further information:

  • There’s some useful SafeWork Australia materials for PCBUs on Fatigue Management here.
  • You can read more of the Sleep Health Foundation’s report here .
  • The Harvard Medical School Article is available here.
Alicja Gibert