5 Startling Ways that Lack of Sleep May Cost You

What's The Problem with Lack of Sleep?

lack of sleep

Sometimes we don’t know how valuable something is until we pay a big enough price.

Check out the following story someone who learned how valuable sleep is.

About five years ago, I fainted from exhaustion. I hit my head on my desk. I broke my cheekbone and got four stitches on my right eye. It started me on this journey of rediscovering sleep and balance and integrating my life. I think everyone should stop and reassess their lives before you hit your head on your desk.

I studied, I met with medical doctors, scientists, and I’m here to tell you that the way to a more productive, more inspired, more joyful life is: getting enough sleep.

Ariana Huffington, syndicated columnist, and businesswoman, author. Thrive

Lack of Sleep and the Autism Spectrum

Asperger/Autistic adults often struggle with insomnia and poor sleep. (Bmcpsychiatry and Science Direct)

You and I can prioritize sleep by understanding the eye-opening ways that lack of sleep costs us.

Before we get started, you’ll learn a lot by watching this video about the effects of sleep deprivation.

1. Physical Costs of Lack of Sleep

Sleep deprivation can produce the following, according to Healthline’s 11 Effects of Sleep Deprivation

  • Trouble with thinking and concentration
  • More accident prone
  • Mood changes
  • Weakened Immunity
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Risk of Heart Disease
  • Weight Gain
  • Risk for Diabetes
  • Low Sex Drive
  • Poor Balance

According to the same article from Healthline,

“A review of 16 studies found that sleeping for less than 6 to 8 hours a night increases the risk of early death by about 12 percent.”

So it’s in our best interest to protect our sleep as a valuable investment!

2. Mental Costs

Sleepless in Las Vegas! In 2011, researchers at Duke University asked gamblers to take part in a study of how lack of sleep affects decision-making.

“When participants had been deprived of sleep for just one night, they started do make fewer decisions that avoided loss, and more decisions that maximised potential gain. In other words, sleep deprivation made their gambles riskier and more optimistic. ” (How Lack of Sleep Affects Your Brain)”

Mashable quoted a study from the non-profit RAND corporation which stated that a lack of sleep in children and young adults can cause them to fall behind in school.

Another study showed that poor sleep negatively affects our hippocampus. This is the part of our brain that stores new memories, helping us to learn and to prepare for each new day.

3. Emotional Costs

Years ago, a DJ named Peter Tripp decided to stay awake for over 200 hours to raise funds for a charity.

The Independent tells the story of the “Wakeathon”

The subsequent impact of the “wakeathon" on Tripp’s mind was far more dramatic than anyone had expected. The personality of a man normally described as cheerful and upbeat appeared to significantly change as time went by. By the third day he had become highly irritable, cursing and insulting even his closest friends. Towards the end of his endeavour, he began to hallucinate and exhibit paranoid behaviours.

The same article in the Independent states scientists have discovered that lack of sleep negatively effects our amygdala. The amygdala is the part of our brain responsible for emotions, survival, instincts, and memory. When we’re sleep deprived, our brains magnify negative stimuli so that we’re more easily discouraged, irritated, angry, or depressed.

I’ve personally trained myself after 10 pm to not take my brain too seriously. It’s because I often do have more self-critical or “gloomy” thoughts after 10 pm, and I’ve learned that after a good night’s sleep, those thoughts go away or become much less intense.

4. Safety Costs

The division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School in its article, Sleep, Performance, and Public Safety, points out that fatigue and inattention due to sleep create costly accidents.

Investigations of the grounding of the Exxon Valdez oil tanker, as well as the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, have concluded that sleep deprivation also played a critical role in these accidents. In both cases, those in charge of the operations and required to make critical decisions were operating under extreme sleep deprivation. While the Challenger disaster put the multi-billion dollar shuttle program in peril, the Exxon Valdez oil spill resulted in incalculable ecological, environmental, and economic damage.

This video shows the relationship between poor sleep and driving accidents.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year, and they consider this a conservative estimate.

Unfortunately, medical doctors are trained in a residency model that requires them to take long shifts without sleep. In 2004, “Dr. Charles Czeisler of the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School found that hospitals could reduce the number of medical errors by as much as 36 percent by limiting an individual doctor’s work shifts to 16 hours and reducing the total work schedule to no more than 80 hours per week.”


You and I are more prone to poor decision-making, getting into driving accidents, and making costly mistakes in our personal and professional lives if we’re short on sleep.

5. Financial Costs

In order to understand the financial costs of lack of sleep, we’re going to have to look at national costs and think about how those costs affect us individually.

Here are some sleeplessness costs, according to CBS News.

The United States leads the world in the costs tied to lack of sleep at about $226.4 billion due to low productivity and days missed at work.

Japan is 2nd, losing up to $138 billion annually, and Germany is third, losing about $60 billion.

If we care about our finances, we’ll make sleep a priority!

Summing It All Up: Lack of Sleep, the Tortoise, and the Hare

Sometimes we think we can cut corners in life.

We think that, like the hare, we can win the race of life by taking shortcuts, working harder, running faster.

But it’s the tortoise, who mindfully placed one foot in front of the other, taking no shortcuts, who crossed the finish line before the hare.

We need to prioritize sleep in our lives if we want to:

  • stay in the workforce until we’re ready to retire
  • look and feel younger
  • keep our brain neurons alive and firing
  • make good decisions
  • avoid traffic accidents
  • be productive at work and in life
  • keep our weight down
  • stay healthy
  • and hopefully at years to our life!

Copyright: stocking / 123RF Stock Photo

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I'm Steve Borgman. I'm a licensed clinical professional counselor and blogger committed to bringing you hope, understanding, and solutions that you can apply to your life immediately.

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