Sleeping fewer than 7 hours increases your risk of dying early

He said the new data gave better insight to understand the risk from poor sleep, how to manage the risk, and better prevention for both people and life insurers.

Elevate has created a dashboard for individuals to import a raft of wearable, health insurance, financial and credit data “so people are able to sync their different dimensions of wellness data”.

We often think of sleep as the third pillar of health alongside of diet and exercise, but in truth sleep is actually the foundation.

Matthew Walker, professor of neuroscience and psychology

“We not only present this data back to individuals, but then we give them goals to achieve on a monthly basis, the basis for which they get rewards,” Mr Abraham said.

“Ultimately, this is our mechanism to maintain and manage the risk of our individuals and our policyholders.”

The program is being promoted as a means of reducing the health impact of poor sleep. But the data also enables insurers to set premiums according to the risk from poor sleep practices.

Lack of sleep is increasing, with studies suggesting a fifth of the population now gets less than seven hours sleep. This is exposing them to accidents, depression, obesity and disease.

The Sleep Health Foundation commissioned a Deloitte 2017 study, which suggested poor sleep was costing the economy $66 billion a year – $26.2 billion in financial costs and $40.1 billion in the loss of wellbeing.

Increased mortality risk

“Individuals reporting less than seven hours of sleep a night are almost three times more likely to become infected by a rhinovirus, and rhinoviruses are essentially the culprits behind the common cold,” South African actuary Nicole Kriek told the actuarial conference.

“Sleeping less than seven hours a night increases your risk from all causes of mortality by 24 per cent, which is quite a significant impact on mortality,” she said.

Workers who sleep for less than five hours make twice as many errors as those who have slipped more, according to the Australian National Sleep Health Foundation.

Studies have also shown that going too long without sleep impairs the ability to drive or work in the same way as alcohol. US research suggests being awake for at least 18 hours is the equivalent of having a blood alcohol content of 0.05 per cent, the level at which drivers are banned from driving.

Oversleeping can also be problematic, with the need to sleep more than nine hours regularly being a marker for comorbidities.

“Sleep is the single most effective thing we can do to reset our brain and body health each day,” says Californian professor of neuroscience and psychology Matthew Walker.

“We often think of sleep as the third pillar of health alongside of diet and exercise, but in truth sleep is actually the foundation.”

Professor Walker is a global speaker on the topic and is fond of reminding men who sleep only five hours a night that they will have a level of testosterone of those 10 years their senior. He claims there are similar impacts for women’s reproductive health.

Mr Abraham said the data from wearables was showing some overestimation of sleep duration, but overall the results showed “a strong correlation” to the clinical studies.

He said data from the US suggested one in five people are now regularly tracking their health using wearable technologies, with around 16 per cent of people tracking sleep patterns.

Mr Abraham said there was a cause-and-effect problem with sleep. Collecting other information such as credit data enabled a better understanding of what might be driving the poor sleep, such as financial stress.

He said once they have enough data they will start to build algorithms and models to understand the risk.

“Ultimately, this is our mechanism to maintain and manage the risk of our individuals and our policyholders.”

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