[Question] Should we consider the sleep loss epidemic an urgent global issue?

I have re­cently read Why We Sleep (a nice book re­view) by Matthew Walker PhD (AKA Sleep Di­plo­mat).

The book ex­plains about the benefits of sleep­ing enough and the nega­tive con­se­quences of not sleep­ing enough, based on sci­en­tific re­search.

It also ex­plains how this prob­lem is ne­glected. For ex­am­ple, a short snip­pet from the book about driv­ing:

At the high­est lev­els, we need bet­ter pub­lic cam­paigns ed­u­cat­ing the pop­u­la­tion about sleep. We spend a tiny frac­tion of our trans­porta­tion safety bud­get warn­ing peo­ple of the dan­gers of drowsy driv­ing com­pared with the countless cam­paigns and aware­ness efforts re­gard­ing ac­ci­dents linked to drugs or al­co­hol. This de­spite the fact that drowsy driv­ing is re­spon­si­ble for more ac­ci­dents than ei­ther of these two is­sues—and is more deadly. Govern­ments could save hun­dreds of thou­sands of lives each year if they mo­bi­lized such a cam­paign. It would eas­ily pay for it­self, based on the cost sav­ings to the health-care and emer­gency ser­vices bills that drowsy-driv­ing ac­ci­dents im­pose. It would of course help lower health-care and auto in­surance rates and pre­miums for in­di­vi­d­u­als.


I con­ducted an in­for­mal sur­vey of col­leagues, friends, and fam­ily in the United States and in my home coun­try of the United King­dom. I also sam­pled friends and col­leagues from Spain, Greece, Aus­tralia, Ger­many, Is­rael, Ja­pan, South Korea, and Canada.
0 per­cent re­ceived any ed­u­ca­tional ma­te­ri­als or in­for­ma­tion about sleep.

(Of course, this is anec­do­tal ev­i­dence, but I don’t think there is a ques­tion about the ex­tremely low amount of hours schools ded­i­cate to ed­u­cat­ing about sleep.)

The book also claims the sleep loss epi­demic is a large-scale prob­lem:

This silent sleep loss epi­demic is the great­est pub­lic health challenge we face in the twenty-first cen­tury in de­vel­oped na­tions.


In­suffi­cient sleep robs most na­tions of more than 2 per­cent of their GDP

(With re­gard to the last claim, the book refer­ences RAND Cor­po­ra­tion, Lack of Sleep Cost­ing UK Econ­omy Up to £40 Billion a Year.)

I am not an ex­pert in sleep, nor in cause se­lec­tion, but this prob­lem seems to me quite ne­glected (rel­a­tively to its scale), and at least par­tially (e.g., ed­u­cat­ing about sleep, later school start times) easy to solve (rel­a­tively to other is­sues).

I am less cer­tain about its scale rel­a­tively to other global is­sues, but I won­der about its to­tal score (scale+ne­glect­ed­ness+solv­abil­ity), if it were as­sessed like other is­sues in this table by 80k Hours.

Edit: To clar­ify, by “the sleep loss epi­demic” I re­fer mainly to sleep-de­prived peo­ple with no sleep di­s­or­ders. I as­sumed (please cor­rect me if I were wrong) that sleep di­s­or­ders aren’t the main cause for sleep-de­pri­va­tion, which means that we mainly have to deal with seem­ingly-eas­ier-to-change causes (e.g., ed­u­ca­tion, so­cial norms).