A new government report has called for a national approach to working hours and rest breaks for shift workers as one of 11 critical recommendations for improving sleep health.
The Australian Parliament’s Health, Aged Care and Sport Committee recently presented its report Bedtime Reading: Report on the Inquiry into Sleep Health Awareness in Australia.
The inquiry considered the prevalence, causes, and symptoms of inadequate sleep and sleep disorders, as well as the treatment and support available for sleep disorders.
“The importance of sleep is often overlooked but it is one of the pillars of a healthy lifestyle,” said Committee Chair, Trent Zimmerman MP.
“Regularly getting inadequate sleep is linked to a range of serious physical and mental health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and dementia.’
To address this, the Committee has recommended an education and awareness campaign to encourage people to prioritise sleep and to highlight that regularly foregoing sleep due to the pressures of a busy lifestyle will have health consequences.
The inquiry made 11 practical recommendations on ways Australia can drastically improve its sleep health, including the development of a nationally consistent approach to working hours and rest breaks for shift workers; and considering whether there is a need for sleep health screenings for shift workers.
Other recommendations included:
- A review of sleep health services funded under the Medicare Benefits Schedule;
- Expanded support for treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea;
- Additional sleep health training for medical professionals;
- Funding for research into the effects of the use of digital devices on children’s sleep health.
“This is a defining moment internationally for sleep health,” said Sleep Health Foundation Chair, Professor Dorothy Bruck.
“For the first time in the world a comprehensive government-level document has acknowledged that quality sleep is as important for health as a good diet and adequate exercise.
“It also calls for sleep health to be recognised as a national priority.”
Australasian Sleep Association President, Peter Eastwood, said the report reflects both the importance of the issues and the neglect to date of this significant health area.
“The report has an impressively wide range of recommendations, which have been influenced by the breadth of submissions,” said Eastwood.
“These recommendations, if followed, will take sleep health, sleep medicine and sleep science to a new and proper level within the community.”
Professor Bruck said the 11 recommendations were a call to action and addressed a broad range of priorities and concerns raised in public hearings and 138 submissions from patient groups, medical organisations and health experts.
Importantly Eastwood said the report recognised the need for a change in attitudes in how Australia, as nation, viewed sleep.
“The report stresses the importance of people realising that making do without enough sleep is not a badge of honour or a sign of ‘toughness’, but that ongoing inadequate sleep can have serious health consequences and major safety implications,” Professor Bruck said.
It was revealed in a 2017 report conducted by Deloitte Access Economics that the direct financial cost of poor sleep health is currently estimated to be $26.2 billion annually.
Of even greater concern, in 2016-17 inadequate sleep was estimated to contribute to 3017 deaths in Australia.