A world-first study is set to reveal just how much sleep our politicians are getting while running the country.
Dozens of MPs, senators and their staffers have donned ‘watches’ that will track their sleep and activity for two sitting weeks of parliament, showing for the first time what hours they keep and how much shut-eye they get.
The project, instigated by the country’s two peak sleep organisations, Australasian Sleep Association and Sleep Health Foundation, is designed to shine a spotlight on Australia’s looming sleep epidemic.
“Up to 40 per cent of Australians don’t get enough sleep to function at their peak, and we suspect our politicians, with their demanding work schedules, may be among the worst offenders,” says Dr Stuart Miller, sleep specialist and Australasian Sleep Association member. “Our work here, the first of its kind, will show what kind of sleep or greatest political minds are getting so ultimately we can help improve it.”
The ASA and SHF have partnered with University of Western Australia and Canberra Sleep Clinic to run the study which, includes two sitting weeks and one non-sitting week for comparison. It is part of a wider study to monitor the sleep and activity patterns of different types of Australian workers, with results to be published in a peer-reviewed medical journal on completion.
The study involves almost 80 MPs and senators across all parties, several staffers and a few permanent press gallery senior journalists, all of whom were keen to get involved to better understand their sleep.
It coincides with the announcement that parliament’s House Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport will lead a national inquiry into sleep health awareness.
All those involved have been given an actigraph device to be worn on the wrist to measure physical activity in the day, as well as the length and quality of sleep they get at night. Results from the busy first two weeks will be compared to the likely quieter third week, Dr Miller explains.
“Once we’re finished each politician or staffer will be given a clear picture of their sleep and wake activity and some solid statistics on the quality and quantity of the sleep they’re getting, as well as how long it takes them to get to sleep,” he says. “Those found to have serious sleep problems would be referred to their GP.”
The study will generate important data on sleep among the Australian workforce and heighten the profile of sleep health in parliament house.
“We believe that this exciting and historic project will underscore to all Australians, just how long are the working hours of our parliamentarians and their staff, and how important the role of sleep is to all of us,” Dr Miller says.
A Deloitte Access Economics report by the SHF and launched last year by federal health minister the Hon Greg Hunt MP revealed that lack of sleep inflicts over $26 billion lost in productivity, health and other financial costs on the nation each year, with a further $40 billion in loss of wellbeing.
The negative impact of sleep problems is many and varied, Dr Miller says. “It affects productivity at work and at school, safety on the roads, your mood, your weight, and the likelihood you’ll go on to develop serious health conditions like diabetes, heart disease and hypertension,” says the expert.
“Good sleep is fundamentally important to a long, healthy and happy life. With this work we’ll be ensuring that more Australians get the sleep they need.”
For more information and interview requests, contact Lucy Williams on mobile: 0403 753 028.
About the Australasian Sleep Association
The ASA is the peak scientific body in Australia and New Zealand representing clinicians, scientists and researchers in the broad area of Sleep. Our vision is the provision of world standard research, education and training, and establishment of clinical standards to ensure clinical best practice in sleep medicine resulting in an informed community with healthy sleep practices. ASA is registered as a Health Promotion Charity, enabling donors to claim tax deductions for any donations to the Association.
About Sleep Health Foundation
The Sleep Health Foundation is a charity with DGR status and is Australia’s leading advocate for sleep health. The Foundation aims to improve people’s sleep and their lives by promoting healthy sleep, raising awareness of sleep disorders and building partnerships with organisations. Free, independent, expert-reviewed fact sheets on every aspect of sleep are available at here.