Australians remain in a deep slumber on the health benefits of sleep.
Research conducted by the Sleep Foundation and The University of Adelaide has found 33-45 per cent of adults sleep either poorly or not long enough most nights, leaving them fatigued, irritable and in danger.
Dr David Hillman, the Sleep Foundation’s director, says Australia is in the midst of a “sleepiness epidemic” and our addiction with the internet is to blame.
The 2016 Sleep Healthy Survey of Australian Adults, released on Wednesday 8 February 2017, showed 44 per cent of adults use the internet just before bed almost every night.
Just under 60 per cent of these late night web surfers reported more than 2 sleep problems.
“This is no coincidence,” said Hillman.
Alarmingly, 29 per cent of adults said they drove while feeling drowsy at least once a month, and 20 per cent nodded off at the wheel at some time.
Women found it significantly harder to fall asleep and were hardest hit by insomnia, while men were more likely to suffer from obstructive sleep apnoea.
Compared to the 2010 survey, the nation’s sleep problems were 5-10 per cent worse.
Sleep is not a waste of time and a cohesive national strategy is needed to turn around these “dire” statistics, Hillman said.
“These worrying results just go to show that sleep is not the national health priority it needs to be,” he said. “The truth is that people who cut corners with their sleep function below their best. They are not as mentally sharp, as vigilant, as attentive or as patient as they would otherwise be.
“Accident risk goes up, workplace performance goes down and your mood, your heart and your blood pressure can all be affected.”
Key findings of sleep study:
- 33-45 per cent affected by inadequate sleep, of either duration or quality.
- Average reported sleep time is 7 hours, 12 per cent sleep less than 5-and-a-half hours and 8 per cent over 9 hours.
- 75 per cent of those who sleep less than 5-and-a-half hours report frequent daytime impairment or sleep-related symptoms.
- 24 per cent of men report frequent, loud snoring and 17 per cent of women.
- 29 per cent report making errors at work due to sleepiness or sleep problems within 3 months of the survey.
- Almost a third of adults drive when drowsy at least every month, and one in five nodded off while driving.
- 44 per cent of adults (47 per cent women, 40 per cent men) are on the internet just before bed almost every night.
Health benefits of sufficient sleep
- Improved cognitive function: research suggests lack of adequate sleep affects judgment, alertness and concentration. One’s ability to recall information is also affected.
- Cardiovascular benefits: sleep is involved in the healing and repair of the heart and blood vessels. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.
- Weight loss/maintaining a healthy weight: sleep deprivation affects impulse control, leaving the tired unable to squash cravings for comfort food. Studies have found that when people were starved of sleep, late-night snacking increased, and they were more likely to choose high-carb snacks. The food chosen also contained twice as much fat as that chosen by people who slept the recommended eight hours.
- Lower accident risk: the sleep-deprived are at a higher risk of injury due to accidents. The 2016 Sleep Health Survey showed 5 per cent of those who admitted to falling asleep at the wheel had had a motor vehicle accident.
- General wellbeing: getting enough sleep improves mood. Chronic sleep deprivation has also been linked to physical problems such as a weakened immune system and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression
Looking for ways to help with sleep, read our article on Tai Chi here.