It’s been said that you can never catch-up on lost sleep, this might be true but the research into sleep and sleep deprivation is ongoing.

New research now shows that South Africans need more sleep. It’s not that uncommon when you consider that we spend hours in traffic, get to work and then have to commute home again - it’s a long slog before we tuck into bed.

The research shows that your sleep-deprived colleagues are at higher risk of life-threatening chronic illness and disability, more likely to cause workplace accidents, less productive and more absent.

The lack of sleep when tallied, adds up to an economic liability in the billions for SA.

And it’s also a risk for medical aid schemes

The cost to just one medical aid scheme of treating the life-threatening diseases linked to sleeping less than the recommended eight hours a night is estimated at R22-billion annually in a recent study conducted by Charles King, an MBA student at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB).

“Lack of sleep is not only related to workplace issues such as absenteeism, lack of productivity, poor work performance, and accidents – which have a direct cost impact on a business – but insufficient sleep has been directly linked with seven of the 15 leading causes of death. 

“The research looked at the indirect costs of lack of sleep, particularly the cost to medical schemes of treating illnesses where inadequate sleep is a major risk factor. We asked what the potential savings would be to a medical scheme if individuals just got enough sleep,” King said. 

It is widely accepted that seven to nine hours sleep a night are optimal for wellness, productivity and lowering the risk of disease, but King said two-thirds (64%) of the people whose sleeping habits he tracked slept for less than seven hours a night.