Not getting enough sleep? What is it costing you?


Failing to get enough sleep is costing the UK economy 2.14% of GDP - and costs London alone £10.9 billion a year. The figures, from the London Doctors Clinic, are based on the fact that 30% of Brits have trouble sleeping and 10% suffer from insomnia. It demonstrates the disastrous effect that a lack of sleep can have on productivity and sickness.

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LDC founder and senior GP Dr Seth Rankin says: "Every month we see thousands of patients suffering with stress and anxiety brought on by a lack of sleep."

If we don't get enough sleep, then it damages our performance at work in four ways.

1) It can make you less productive
A 2012 Journal of Vision study at the Brigham and Women's Hospital set people a task of staying awake and completing a computer task requiring speed and accuracy. Their effectiveness in both areas deteriorated the longer they went without sleep.

2) It can damage your focus
A study in 2011 at Michigan State found that sleep improves 'working memory capacity', which helps people work through complex issues and solve problems. Without it, people lose focus too easily.

3) It can stop you recovering from stress
Fewer than six hours sleep isn't giving your brain long enough to recover from work-related stress in between. It means that the stress is more likely to get to you in the long run.

4) It can make you irritable
It means you're less likely to adapt well to unexpected change at work, and deal with difficult colleagues, clients or customers. At best it could hamper your ability to work with your team and solve problems - at its most extreme it could get you fired.

5) It makes you ill
The NHS highlights that sleep boost immunity, so if you aren't getting enough sleep, you are putting yourself at risk of catching any virus doing the rounds.

As a result of all of these things, a lack of sleep can cost us money too: apparently one extra hour in average sleep in the long run correlates with a 16% increase in wages.

What can you do about it?

The clinic says that the most common causes of insomnia are stress, shift work, medications, major life changes, and poor sleep habits. As a result, the solution often lies in treating the underlying problem.

The best place to start is the GP, who can check whether any underlying medical conditions are to blame. They'll talk to you about mood, stress, lifestyle and sleeping routines - in order to find the best treatment.

If you are having trouble sleeping, it's also worth looking at your sleep hygiene practices.

The clinic recommends avoiding naps during the day - regardless of how tired you are, exercising five times a week, avoiding caffeine, alcohol, big meals and nicotine close to bedtime, reducing your exposure to screens for the hour before you sleep, keeping your room cool and dark, and sticking to the same sleep schedule every day.

Given that it's currently National Bed Month, maybe this is a good opportunity to revisit whether you are sleeping enough, and what you can do in order to get more rest.

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