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National Parliamentary Inquiry Tackles Looming Sleep Crisis

Australian sleep experts are applauding a parliamentary decision to tackle head on the dire sleep epidemic that is damaging the mood, health and safety of the nation.

The two peak national sleep health organisations, the Sleep Health Foundation and the Australasian Sleep Association, today welcome news that Canberra has launched a national inquiry into poor sleep.

The Inquiry into Sleep Health Awareness in Australia will be led by the Australian Parliament’s House Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport.

Chair of the Sleep Health Foundation, Professor Dorothy Bruck, welcomed the world-first investigation to examine the causes, economic and social costs and treatment of inadequate sleep and sleep disorders. “It is heartening to see the issue of sleep being given this close attention by our national leaders,” Professor Bruck says. “We are all in agreement that we have a crisis brewing here so it’s great to see a swift response from our politicians.”

The announcement comes in the wake of a National Sleep Summit convened by the two organisations in April to address the scourge of poor sleep health and improve the nation’s health, safety and productivity. The nine leading sleep, health and productivity bodies in attendance penned a communiqué that warned of an impending sleep crisis and called for a bipartisan national investigation to urgently address the issue.

Australasian Sleep Association President Professor Peter Eastwood praised Minister for Health, Aged Care and Sport Hon Greg Hunt MP, Committee Chair Mr Trent Zimmerman MP and Deputy Chair Mr Steve Georganas MP, as well as the bipartisan committee as a whole, for recognising the importance of sleep as critical for good health.

“We now have a dire situation where millions of Australians are failing to get the sleep they need to live happy, healthy lives,” Professor Eastwood says. “With this inquiry, we hope to get a coordinated national strategy that enshrines sleep as the third pillar of good health, alongside regular physical activity and healthy diet.”

Sleeplessness is damaging our everyday lives much more than people realise, he says. “It affects daily functioning, worsens health conditions from heart disease and stroke through to diabetes and depression, and it claims lives on our roads and workplaces,” the expert warns.

The inquiry has five terms of reference:

  1. The potential and known causes, impacts and costs (economic and social) of inadequate sleep and sleep disorders on the community;
  2. Access to, support and treatment available for individuals experiencing inadequate sleep and sleep disorders, including those who are: children and adolescents, from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, living in rural, regional and remote areas, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander;
  3. Education, training and professional development available to healthcare workers in the diagnosis, treatment and management of individuals experiencing inadequate sleep and sleep disorders;
  4. Workplace awareness, practices and assistance available to those who may be impacted by inadequate sleep or sleep disorders, with a focus on: rostering practices for shift workers, heavy-work requirements, and the transport industry as compared to international best practice; and
  5. Current national research and investment into sleep health and sleeping disorders.

A Deloitte Access Economics report commissioned by the Sleep Health Foundation and published last year was the first to reveal the true cost of sleep loss to the nation. It found about 7.4 million Australians didn’t get enough sleep in the 2016-2017 financial year.

It also revealed poor sleep costs the country $66 billion a year in health bills, lost productivity and wellbeing. The same report found lack of sleep kills 3,017 people a year, including 394 who died in an industrial accident or after falling asleep at the wheel of a vehicle.

The committee will accept submissions until October 18, preferably online using a My Parliament account. Further details on the inquiry are available on the committee’s website.

For more information and interview requests, contact ASA and SHF media consultant Lucy Williams on mobile: 0403 753 028.