Paying for the Pleasures of Sleep

High-tech mattresses, expensive luxury sheets, white-noise machines … it seems like when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, some people are willing to pay just about anything. And with the attention that the dangers of sleep deprivation and sleep disorders has been getting in the news these days, it’s no wonder. Lack of sleep has been blamed – and rightly so – for a number of tragic accidents, for lost productivity in the workplace, for increased potential for Alzheimer’s disease and other degenerative brain diseases, for weight gain, and many more causes for serious concern. 

Though a sleep specialist is likely to tell you that unless you have a sleep disorder, you just need to make sleep a higher priority, and that it isn’t necessary to spend money to get a good night’s sleep, it is worth looking at the ways that losing sleep is costing you, and what some of the options are that can enhance your chances for getting back to getting the rest you need.

 There are a number of ways that lack of sleep ends up costing you financially. Most notably, you become far more prone to getting into an accident when you haven’t had enough sleep – in fact, it is similar to driving while intoxicated. Experts estimate that between 16 and 60 percent of auto accidents in the United States are a result of drowsy driving, and between 30 and 40 percent of all heavy truck accidents. In addition to being a danger on the road, you are also likely to be less careful and more clumsy while doing day-to-day tasks like walking up and down the stairs or chopping up food for dinner. 

Accidents end up costing you money in lost time out of work, plus the medical expenses that are incurred. Additionally, people who are sleep deprived have a much higher potential for getting sick and experiencing serious health conditions. The risk of stroke increases by 15 percent and the risk of developing or dying from heart disease increases by 48 percent. If you are truly sleep deprived and sleep less than four hours per night you have a 75 percent increased risk for obesity. Plus, people who don’t get enough sleep and who are run down are also much more likely to catch colds and be vulnerable to the flu and other viruses and infections.

Being sleepy often leads to not thinking straight and making bad and even risky decisions. Got to Las Vegas or Atlantic City and walk the halls of the casinos in the late, late hours and you’ll see many bleary-eyed people who are desperately in need of sleep, making very bad choices with their money. The reason is that when you’re sleep deprived your body runs low on dopamine, which is a hormone that controls your decision-making skills.  People who make financial decisions while sleepy put themselves at much greater risk for losses.

Many people choose to stay up late and wake up early thinking that doing so will help them to get ahead in their job, but research has shown that burning the candle at both ends and not getting enough sleep actually works against you when it comes to climbing the ladder of success. Sleep deprived brains are inefficient – they don’t remember things, they don’t learn things, they don’t respond as quickly and the make poor judgments. Productivity studies have shown that workers with insomnia end up costing an average of $3,225 more per year than those who get the sleep that they need … and your boss is much more likely to look favorably on the alert colleague next to you who got eight hours of sleep if you’re staring into space and have a bleary look in your eyes.

 Fatigue often leads us to pay for services that we would normally do on our own. Whether it is stopping and picking up fast food instead of cooking, having somebody else clean the house or wash the car, or even going to the closer gourmet store instead of going the extra distance to the discount place that’s a little further down the road, the more tired you are the more excuses you are likely to make for why it’s worth it to pay a bit more. You’re also likely to skip your exercise routine, a decision that will end up depleting you of even more energy.

Finally, even though the costs may be incremental, when you haven’t had enough sleep you are likely spending a lot more on coffee than you would if you had gotten in your eight hours. Even at just a couple of bucks a day it can quickly add up.

To stop yourself from losing money and putting your health and career at risk, all that’s needed is a simple realignment of the way that you are prioritizing sleep each night. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called sleep deprivation a national epidemic, but the truth is that for many of us, not getting enough sleep is a matter of choice.  British sleep scientists have referred to the sleep-depriving choices that are being made today as “arrogance” because we are ignoring what our bodies are telling us that they need and the establishment of a bodily system that has evolved over tens of thousands of years.

The best place to start is by simply acknowledging that sleep is just as important to our health as good nutrition and getting adequate exercise. Starting from there and understanding that you need an average of seven to eight hours of sleep every night, figure out what time you need to wake up in the morning and count backwards to determine what time you need to be asleep in order to get adequate sleep. Then count back another two hours. This is where you begin, by turning off electronic devices and working on relaxation. By establishing a nightly bed time routine and prioritizing getting the sleep you need every single night you will be well on your way to a better quality of life and putting a stop to the high cost of sleep deprivation.