How many hours did you sleep last night?

I’d have pretty good odds if I bet “Under 7 Hours.” Americans currently average 6.8 per night – down an entire hour from 1942. But hey, we’re spending our time well, binge watching Orange is the New Black, right?

The Brigham Health Sleep Matters Initiative for the National Safety Council (NSC) just released new research that estimates an employer with 1,000 employees will experience sleep disorder and sleep deprivation costs of $1.4M annually in absenteeism, decreased productivity and healthcare expense. Scaled to the average-sized Fortune 500 Company, that number reaches $80M!

Now, I realize that’s a combination of direct and indirect costs, which can be hard to measure – but let’s be honest with ourselves. We can all relate to feeling the effects of a compressed sleep schedule (whether binge-watching or jet-lagging), and not being nearly as productive, creative or focused as we typically might be.

If you haven’t played around with the NSC’s Fatigue Cost Calculator for Employers, it’s worth checking out. You can customize for geography, industry and a shift workforce to get an estimated impact of sleep deprivation on your workforce.

There are a number of sleep-focused startups trying to make a difference in this space – SleepMed, Sleepio, Optisom and Fusion Health come to mind – each pulling on various levers, like sleep tests for diagnosis and cognitive behavior therapy for ongoing support. And behavioral health companies are building in modules to support sleep hygiene because of the obvious linkages there, as well.

Made it this far without nodding off? Congratulations! You’ve earned a few sleep hygiene tips, from me to you:

  • Aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night
  • Go to bed at the same time every night (+/- 20 min)
  • Take the TV out of the bedroom. Even harder is to move the phone off your nightstand (I know, many of us – myself included – use it as an alarm clock!)
  • Install blue light filters on your devices; the blue light from the screens will increase your alertness
  • Cigarettes, alcohol and over-the-counter medications can all lead to fragmented sleep
  • Exercising before 2 pm every day will give you the benefits of physically tiring your body, without being too close to your bedtime to keep you alert

Good luck sleeping more than 7 hours tonight!

Chris Chan
by Chris Chan

Principal, Innovation LABS, Mercer

Chris is a Principal and Innovation Imagineer with Mercer’s Health Innovation LABS, where he helps build creative solutions that complement employers’ health and welfare benefits programs. He focuses on developing strategies and products through the use of human-centered design, machine learning, consumer data insights and creating customer delight. Chris graduated from the University of California with a degree in neurobiology.

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