Don’t Wake Up, Australia

On March 25, 2012 there was a very good article Don’t wake up, Australia – our $ 5b sleep disorder by Jim O’Rourke published in the Sun-Herald in Sydney Australia, containing some well researched information about the cost of sleep, the adverse effects of sleeping pills, and tips for a good night’s sleep.

Hoorah for some quality research on sleep disorders being published in the general media!

Here is some of the published data:

Sleeping Pills

  • “US research reported in the British Medical Journal has shown that people who take sleeping pills as little as twice a month are three to four times more likely to die in the next 2 1/2 years.  People taking more than 132 pills a year have a 35 per cent increase in cancer.”
  • “The study’s authors say the drugs could increase problems related to sleep apnoea – including high blood pressure, heart failure and cardiovascular disease – and cause night-eating disorders that lead to poor diet and obesity.”
  • It is probably not new news for our readers to see that “‘hangover sedation’ could impair motor skills, resulting in more car crashes and falls”.

Sleep Solutions

“A paper that reviews more than 130 recent human sleep studies, published in The Lancet earlier this year, shows that despite the growth in over-the-counter drugs to treat insomnia, the best way to bring on sleep is to try a psychological cure; that is, change bedtime behaviour.”
Those sorts of behaviours might include relaxation techniques, sleep restriction therapy, exercising regularly and keeping the bedroom dark, quiet and comfortable.  There are many more of these sorts of behaviour/lifestyle changes that can help us sleep better.

Here are some of the Disturbing Statistics around Sleep Disorders:

  • Almost 500,000 Australians are insomniacs
  • The Lancet study linked insomnia to serious psychiatric problems and diabetes (we knew that anyway, but it just strengthens the evidence, perhaps)
  • Sleep Disorders contribute to 5.3% of strokes, 10.1% of depression, 4.3% of motor vehicle accidents and 4.5% of workplace injuries.
  • And the cost of sleep disorders (sleep apnoea, insomnia and restless legs syndrome)?  $ 5.1 billion total for Australia, $ 465 million road accidents, $ 53 million work accidents, $ 3.1 billion in lost productivity, $ 8.8 million in healthcare.

Source:  The Sun-Herald March 25, 2012

The Lancet Study:  Chronic Insomnia, The Lancet, 2012

Deloitte study:  Re-awakening Australia:  The Economic Cost of Sleep Disorders in Australia

Given the huge impact on people’s health and the associated health and psychological costs of lack of sleep (and other sleep disorders) it is very disappointing that we have so little of our medical and health budget spent on sleep education and preventative initiatives.

And there is a lack of interest in helping people decipher exactly what their underlying issues are with their sleep disorders.

Apart from exercise and psychological issues they include bad diet, dehydration, food intolerances (and our poor food labeling laws), the side effects of drugs (both prescription and otherwise), withdrawal from medications, the misuse of alcohol, being overweight, age-related issues, stress in its many forms (relationship, mortgage, work, etc), other health issues, etc.

For many people the underlying causes can be quite complex to work out, and sometimes the underlying issues are a combination of factors.

The fact that insomnia is a symptom of something else (or more than one ‘something else’) still hasn’t registered with many people, who are looking for a quick fix to cover up the symptom of insomnia – without addressing the underlying issue(s).

That is certainly not a permanent sleep solution.


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