How lack of sleep impacts on life and health, and retirement

Middle aged man in pajamas reading tablet at night with serious expression

Image: elenathewise/

Not getting enough sleep? A report from the Rand Corporation declares insufficient sleep as a ‘public health problem’ in the United States, and beyond.

The number of people sleeping less than the recommended (seven to nine) hours is rising and is ‘associated with lifestyle factors related to a modern 24/7 society’. These factors include psychological stress, unbalanced diet, lack of physical activity, and overuse of electronic media.

This is serious because of links to seven leading causes of death: cardiovascular disease, malignant neoplasm, cerebrovascular disease, accidents, diabetes, septicaemia, and hypertension.

Then there’s the impact on clarity of thinking, motor vehicle accidents, and workplace productivity.

Sleep loss and sleep-related disorders have been linked to nuclear accidents at Chernobyl in Russia and Three Mile Island in the US. You can add to that the Exxon Valdez spill and the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy.

In another post, it was noted that there are a growing number of people in their mid-50s working long hours and putting their wellbeing at risk. The goal is to earn extra money toward retirement. Great goal, but the risk is high.

Working too many hours often impacts on sleep.

It’s costly

Australia’s Sleep Health Foundation estimates that sleep disorders, ‘in the form of insomnia, sleep apnoea and restless legs’ costs Australia more than $5.1 billion a year in lost productivity and healthcare costs.

The foundation also suggests that the reduction in quality of life costs Australia another $31 billion annually.

That’s the big picture.

And it gets personal

The foundation has found that 33% to 45% of Australian adults sleep poorly or not long enough on most nights and ‘face the new day with fatigue, irritability, and other side effects of sleep deprivation’.

Added to this is screen time before bed impacting on sleep. Dr David Hillman, a director of the foundation says, ‘Overall, 44% of adults are on the internet just before bed almost every night and 59% of these late night workers, web surfers, movie watchers, or online gamers have more than two sleep problems.

‘This is no coincidence. This habit is having a direct and very negative impact on sleep and without a cohesive national strategy to combat it, this won’t change’.

What’s scary is that their research found one in five had nodded off at the wheel while driving.

So, what’s the retirement connection? A proper good night’s sleep is important for a good day. Getting it every night helps build up health. Health is important for a satisfying retirement.

How to get a good night’s sleep

Suggestions from the Rand Corporation research to improve sleep are these:

1. Set a consistent wake-up time.

2. Limit time spent in bed on activities other than sleeping.

3. Don’t stay in bed unless asleep. It appears that it’s beneficial to get out of bed when there are sleep difficulties—when falling asleep or when getting back to sleep. However, it’s important not to engage in activities that may be overly stimulating, such as using a computer.

4. Limit the use of electronic devices before bedtime.

5. Limit the consumption of substances that may impair sleep quality.

6. Address stressful issues long before bedtime.

7. Exercise. Physical activity sometime during the day has been associated with improved sleep outcomes.

Sleep well.

Bruce Manners: the author of Retirement Ready?, Refusing to Retire, and founder of

Category: Attitude, Lifestyle, Physical Health

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