Sleep experts say the health effects of poor sleep are ‘utterly alarming’

This article was Produced by The Australian and in association with Princess Cruises you can see their original article on their website.

Poor sleep is both a symptom and a cause of serious health conditions and
also a leading contributor to traffic and workplace accidents. The dangers
of sleeplessness have become such a concern to medical experts they have
called for education strategies and changes to workplace, health and safety
laws to help ensure people are properly rested.
A third of Australian adults, 37 per cent, get less than seven hours sleep
per night, according to a survey commissioned by News Corp, in
partnership with Princess Cruises. Experts are concerned that people are
not getting the necessary amount of sleep, where eight and a quarter hours
is the normal benchmark.

The survey is in line with finding from Australia’s Sleep Health
Foundation, which in August warned sleeplessness was responsible for a
$1.8 billion annual health bill and lost productivity costs amounting to
$17.9 billion. While the survey found most people aware that inadequate
sleep impacts on their health and quality of life, the extent of potential
harm outlined by the foundation is shocking.

Sleep depravation
Australia’s Sleep Health Foundation has warned that sleeplessness was responsible for a $1.8 billion annual health bill.

The report was prepared by Deloitte Access Economics and launched by
federal Health Minister Greg Hunt in Canberra. Foundation chair
Professor Dorothy Bruck says if four out of every 10 Australians are
suffering from inadequate sleep, half of those would be experiencing
ongoing, pathologically high levels of daytime sleepiness.

And everyone who routinely goes without sleep would know they can’t
function at normal levels of alertness, concentration and emotional
control. “This lack of sleep had harmful effects on everyday function, and
exacerbated health conditions from heart disease and stroke through to
diabetes and depression in tens of thousands of Australians,” says Bruck.
“On top of this, it claimed the lives of more than 3,000 people. The cost of
sleep deprivation is utterly alarming and confirms we need to take urgent
action to put sleep on the national agenda.”

To be exact, 3,017 deaths in 2016-17 were estimated to have been partly
caused by sleeplessness, including traffic and industrial accidents or as a
consequence or heart disease or diabetes.

It is estimated that 7.4 million Australian adults get inadequate sleep, 13.3
per cent of the population would have the medical condition known as
excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) and 5.8 percent EDS due to sleep
disorders such as insomnia, restless legs syndrome and sleep apnoea.

Not only are lifestyle diseases such as obesity compounding the problem,
but so too is the ageing population, with greater attention being paid to the
sleep needs of the elderly. Wearable devices and home monitors may be a
solution – not to be confused with the blue light from phones and tablet
computers that will keep you awake – and researchers at Australia’s
Swinburne University have discovered that reductions in rapid eye
movement (REM) sleep are a predictor of dementia.

The report put the financial cost of sleeplessness, including health costs
and the loss of productivity, at $26.2 billion a year. Adding the loss of
wellbeing would push it to $66.3 billion. “The numbers are big, the
personal and national costs are big and their consequences should not be
ignored,” says Bruck.

Sleep is fast gaining the attention that diet and exercise have long received
in health circles, although Bruck says “it’s time governments gave sleep
the policy airtime it deserves to get our citizens sleeping better and

Children appear to have been losing about 45 seconds of sleep per day each year for the last 120 years.

Responding to the Sleep Foundation report, Professor Tim Olds from the
University of South Australia said there had been a considerable focus on
sleep disorders “but the bigger question is for those people without
diagnosable sleep disorders who are not getting appropriate amounts or
patterns of sleep”.

“There is not much evidence that adults are sleeping less now they did 10-
50 years ago,” Professor Olds said. There is, however, strong evidence that
children are – they appear to have been losing about 45 seconds of sleep
per day each year for the last 120 years.”

Dr Michael Breus

American sleep expert Michael Breus, a clinical
psychologist known as The Sleep Doctor, has
worked with Princess Cruises to help passengers
take the opportunity to improve their sleep. Breus
says, historically, not enough attention has been
given to sleep problems, but that is changing,
partly because rising obesity rates have brought
more cases of sleep apnoea.

“I am constantly trying to educate more and more people, so I believe that
schools, workplaces and retirement villages should have sleep in their
educational course work and curriculum,” Breus says. “It is a perfect
opportunity to do the educating. Princess Cruises is the first cruise
company I know of that has hired a sleep specialists to help guests get the
best sleep at sea.”

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