“We are a society that does not value sleep,” said board member at the German Sleep Society (DGSM) Hans-Günter Weeß, adding that the country’s inhabitants are more tired than they should be as a result.
Studies by the DGSM show that six percent of the German population – some 4.8 million people – suffer from chronic sleep disorders.
Signs which show you’ve had too little sleep, Weeß said, include negative impacts on your attention, concentration and memory. “Other signs of fatigue are irritability, headaches and gastrointestinal problems.”
A person’s genes determine how much sleep she or he needs but for most adults, an appropriate amount is between six and eight hours, according to researchers.
Sufficient amount of sleep is a prerequisite for physical and mental health, said CEO of Barmer health insurance provider Dr. Christoph Straub. In a study conducted by Barmer published on Thursday, 38 percent of respondents said they slept six hours or less during a typical work week.
The fact that schools across Deutschland start much earlier than schools in other European countries is problematic for the DGSM. The society states that beginning the school day between 7am and 8am (instead of 8:30am at the earliest) has a detrimental effect on young people.
Studies carried out by the DGSM show that teenagers, for instance, solve math problems much better later in the morning at 9am or 10am compared to at 8am. And pupils who have to be on their school bus at 6am or 7am earn comparatively worse grades on their report cards.
“If we want to reform our education system, we should seriously think about starting school later,” said Weeß.
But surveys show that two thirds of parents in the Bundesrepublik are against later school start times since they don’t have flexible working hours.
“This shows that it’s a problem for society as a whole,” said Weeß. “Since we all need more sleep, we have to adapt the world of work.”
Things aren't currently moving in that direction though. Instead of an increasing number of flexible eight-hour work days, due to the digital sphere and social media working hours are actually getting longer.
Moreover, smartphones or tablets in bedrooms regularly rob millions of German citizens of their sleep, according to Barmer. A third of respondents in a recent Barmer study who have these devices beside them at night often or always stay up longer than intended. 15 percent of those surveyed who don’t have devices by their side could say the same.
Weeß predicts Germany could in the near future take on characteristics of countries such as the US and Canada in that it “will soon be a 24-hour non-stop society.”
Studies show that workers nationwide are absent in the office some 200,000 times each year due to sleep disorders. “This means that the German economy loses €60 billion annually as a result of the fatigue of its employees,” Weeß said.