The Financial and Physical Toll Caused by Lack of Sleep

Did you get up today and stumble to the coffee maker to make your coffee because you needed the caffeine to wake up?

Do you have dark circles under your eyes and yawn throughout the day?

If so, you may be part of the growing ranks of Americans who are chronically sleep-deprived.

There are many reasons for sleep deprivation ranging from staying up too late to watch tv, trying to do too many tasks, having children (who are notorious sleep robbers), having an overloaded schedule including working full-time and caring for children and a home, to more serious causes such as insomnia and sleep apnea.

Whatever the cause, chronic lack of sleep can have a high toll on your finances.

We are trained to reward those who push themselves, who stay at the office late, work hard, and short change themselves on sleep every night so they can get more done.

However, this societal norm should change because Americans’ lack of sleep has very expensive consequences.

Consider the following financial and physical tolls caused by lack of sleep:

• Stimulants to stay awake.

Many people spend money on coffee, whether they drink it at home or buy it at Starbuck’s, to stay awake.  In addition, they may buy energy drinks and eat chocolate, looking for a quick caffeine hit.

• Sleeping pills.

lack of sleep

What effect does lack of sleep have on your life?

If you chronically have trouble sleeping, you may try to remedy the problem yourself with over the counter sleep aids, which can add up quickly if you use them on a regular basis.

MLive reports, “Sleeping pill use among young adults rose 85 percent between 2000 and 2004, according to Medco Health Solutions, and the older the person, the more likely they are to use sleeping pills.  Close to 8 percent of those with health insurance used sleeping pills in 2006, Thomson Healthcare reported, compared to 5 percent in 1998.”

• Car accidents.

Those who are chronically sleep deprived are more prone to falling asleep at the wheel.

In fact, Professor Max Hirschowitz was quoted in as saying, “If you take all of the people that die on the highway from falling asleep at the wheel in a week, and you add them up, that’s the equivalent of a major fully loaded airplane crashing every day.”

• Obesity.

Researchers are beginning to draw a link between obesity and lack of sleep.

The primary culprit appears to be the hormone gherlin, which tells us we are hungry.  When we are tired, gherlin increases while leptin, the hormone that tells us we are full, decreases.

The Chicago Tribune explains, “In 1960, Americans averaged 8.5 hours of sleep a night, and our obesity rate was around 12%.  Today we’re averaging 6.5 to 7 hours, and our obesity rate has climbed to around 30%.”

True, there are societal factors that could also explain the increase in obesity such as more people eating at restaurants and buying fast food rather than cooking at home, but the link to sleep and obesity cannot be denied.

The Chicago Tribune cites Dr. Michael Decker, a sleep expert and spokesman for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, “studies consistently show that adults sleeping fewer than six hours a night increase their likelihood for becoming overweight or obese—even when exercising and eating right.  Among adults ages 32 to 49, those averaging five hours of sleep were twice as likely to be obese after nine years compared with those averaging seven hours.”

These studies seem to prove that all things being equal, lack of sleep does seem to be a factor in rising obesity, which in turn leads to more serious health issues.

• Heart disease and stroke.

A report on ABC World News Tonight quoted Dr. Rohit Arora, chair of cardiology at Chicago Medical School who led a recent study that discovered, “People who sleep less than six hours a night are twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack and one-and-a-half times more likely to have congestive heart failure.”


As Americans, we often boast about how busy we are and how little sleep we get.

Lack of sleep seems to be a badge to show how hard we are working.  Yet, while we may feel tired when we sleep less, most of us rarely think about the significant health and financial implications.

Car accidents caused by falling asleep at the wheel, heart attacks, strokes and obesity can all rob us of our lives or the lives of those we love.  If we do not experience loss of life, we pay billions as a country to treat the medical conditions attributed, in part, to lack of sleep.

Personally, we could also be paying hundreds to thousands on sleep aids, stimulants and health care for conditions exacerbated by lack of sleep.

Isn’t it better to just go to bed and get a full night sleep?

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Published or updated October 24, 2012.


  1. Now I have more things to think about when I don’t fall asleep at night, thanks! lol

  2. From what I have read your body works on 4 hour intervals when it comes to sleep. You either need 4 hours or 8 hours. Anything in between are just wasted hours.

    I completely agree with the correlation between lack of sleep and obesity.

  3. When I worked in public accounting, I would sometimes spend hours trying to solve a problem. After a while, I learned the best thing I could do to boost my problem solving skills was to go to sleep. The next day, I’d arrive at work and have my answer in a matter of minutes. Often the answer would seem so obvious. It was just my brain capacity was so diminished by the lack of sleep.

  4. Between kids, work, a side business, a house, etc. there’s only so many hours in the day. Lack of sleep also makes us less patient, less productive and more prone to mistakes. I definitely feel sleep-deprived at times and I try to take a few days off to recharge when that happens.

    • Good call on being less patient! So true.

      As for productivity, when I’m exhausted I feel like I’m draggin my feet all day. It’s all I can do to get the minimum done.

  5. Also, coffee is crazy delicious. Sometimes knowing it’s just at the office helps get me out of bed. But better to get a full night’s sleep. And still get coffee.

  6. Honestly, I couldn’t agree more. “we often boast about how busy we are and how little sleep we get” <– People do and it's pretty ridiculous actually. I wish everyone read this post!

    • What’s even more ridiculous is people boast on how many hours they work and how much overtime. But they don’t talk about how effective their work is. I’d much rather have someone who I could always count on get their work done in less time than someone who worked lot sof OT who’s work I wasn’t sure of.

      Do the work right then get some rest.

  7. Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager says:

    I would add making quick money decisions without thinking through them to the list. When you are tired, you just want to get stuff done and not do any extra work or research. This can take a toll on your bottom line.

  8. Count me among the sleep deprived due to full-time job, side business, 3-year-old, and newborn. And I definitely don’t boast about it. In fact, I long for the care-free days when my wife and I could sleep in. Once the kids become teenagers, I think we’ll join them in sleeping late!

  9. says:

    Sometimes I feel like 24 hours is not enough to do everything that you’d like to do. I think that’s how most people feel today because of the busyness of life and of how a lot of things need to get done. I sometimes lack sleep but whenever I get the chance I make sure that I get to sleep properly whenever properly.

What Do You Think?