The Cost of a Good Night's Sleep

Part one of a two part content series on sleep, health and energy costs for consumers and healthcare facilities.

Depending on where you lay your head at night, you may have used the phrase, “good sleeping weather,” at some point in your life. While this may be an unknown idea to many in warmer climates, experts now say that sleep may be more tightly regulated by temperature than by light.

This theory was covered in detail in the Wall Street Journal earlier this year, where they spoke with Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. According to him, “People tend to set their ambient house or bedroom temperature a little higher than is actually optimal for sleep.”

According to research done by the Harvard School of Medicine, People often get an insufficient amount of sleep because they overlook the potential long-term health consequences associated with sleeplessness. While genetics, poor nutrition, and a lack of exercise are often attributed to things like obesity, diabetes and heart disease, sleep irregularities, and a lack thereof, is an important risk factor for consideration. In fact, many experts have concluded that getting enough high-quality sleep may be as important to health and well-being as nutrition and exercise.

Based on studies they’ve conducted, reducing your amount of sleep by just a few hours per night can affect the body in a number of ways. Below are results that they cited during their research.

  • Obesity—Several studies have linked insufficient sleep and weight gain. For example, one study found that people who slept fewer than six hours per night on a regular basis were much more likely to have excess body weight, while people who slept an average of eight hours per night had the lowest relative body fat of the study group.
  • Diabetes—Studies have shown that people who reported sleeping fewer than five hours per night had a greatly increased risk of having or developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Cardiovascular disease and hypertension—A recent study found that even modestly reduced sleep (six to seven hours per night) was associated with a greatly increased risk of coronary artery calcification, a predictor of future myocardial infarction (heart attack) and death due to heart disease.
  • Immune function—Sleep deprivation increases the levels of many inflammatory mediators, and infections in turn affect the amount and patterns of sleep.
  • Common Cold – In a recent study, people who averaged less than seven hours of sleep a night were about three times more likely to develop cold symptoms than study volunteers who got eight or more hours of sleep when exposed to the cold-causing rhinovirus.

More on the Harvard Sleep Studies can be found on their website.

As you can probably imagine, an increase in health issues also means an increase in healthcare costs and an individual’s productivity. Harvard's data even suggests that sleeping five or fewer hours per night may increase mortality risk by as much as 15 percent.

So, what exactly is the right temperature for a good night’s sleep? According to Dr. Walker, the body’s core temperature needs to drop by two or three degrees to initiate sleep. “If our core temperature is too high the brain cannot easily make the switch from being awake to being asleep, or create the best quality sleep.”

That means that if you keep your house at 70℉ or 72℉, you need to drop the temperature in the evenings. According to studies, 65℉ is optimal, with temperatures as low as 60.8℉ if you like to cuddle up under layers of blankets. That would mean a difference of anywhere between five and ten degrees, and depending on where you live and the season, that can make for a costly proposition. In the end, it all comes down to how much you value a good night's sleep.

Check back in two weeks as we look to understand the relationship between patient comfort and cost inflation in a place where health matters most:  Hospitals.