Sleeping is somewhat of private activity, and most of us don’t like those know-it-all scientists butting in and telling us what to do in the privacy of our own bedrooms. Who do they think they are, telling me not to bring my phone to bed? What if I get reTweeted in the middle of the night? Despite the fact that seemingly nobody gets enough sleep, medical researchers and sleep doctors everywhere are beginning to declare that the U.S. is suffering from a veritable “epidemic” of sleep deprivation. This lack of sleep can lead to all sorts of health disorders and less-than-healthy behaviors, yet some estimates say up to 74% of all U.S. workers aren’t getting enough sleep on a regular basis. Now, a study published by the RAND corporation says that one sure way to give the U.S. economy a huge boost is for all of us to get more sleep. Is this sound science, or wishful thinking?
The study specifically claims that shifting school start times to 8:30 a.m. would add $8.6 billion to the U.S. economy after just two years, $83 billion to the U.S. economy in ten years, and $140 billion after 15 years. In a press release, RAND says the move would lead to “higher academic and professional performance of students, and reduced car crash rates among adolescents.” However, RAND also says the move could have unforeseeable effects due to the interconnected nature of sleep and both physical and mental health:
Throughout the study’s cost-benefit projections, a conservative approach was undertaken which did not include other effects from insufficient sleep, such as higher suicide rates, increased obesity and mental health issues — all of which are difficult to quantify precisely. Therefore, it is likely that the reported economic benefits from delaying school start times could be even higher across many U.S. states.
Many studies have found that later school start times benefit students in all aspects in their life, and that these benefits can have long-lasting effects long after students matriculate into the workforce. Have we been working ourselves to death? Is the answer to a better economy to sleep in a little more each morning? If that’s the case, consider me Warren Buffett.