Senate recognises importance of Sleep Health

Canberra was a busy place on Thursday 27 June.  While you are all aware of events later in the day, you should also know that a very important moment in the sleep health of our country occurred earlier, in the Senate.  A motion, sponsored by Senator John Madigan and his colleagues, Senators Nick Xenophon, Dean Smith and Richard Di Natale, concerning sleep health was passed unanimously.  The motion notes the role and aims of the Sleep Health Foundation and the findings of the economic evaluation of the cost of sleep disorders commissioned by the Foundation (Deloitte Access Economics.  “Reawakening Australia”,October 2011, available on the

Foundation website).  It “recognises that reducing the incidence of sleep disorders and sleep deprivation would have a positive effect on the wellbeing of the Australian community as well as on the economy”.  It “calls on the Government to review the findings of the Foundation's study and consider the inclusion of sleep health issues as part of a broader preventive health strategy”.

These visionary senators have been fastidious in securing bipartisan support.  The effect of the motion, now passed, is to ensure that – beyond the upcoming election – government will pursue the matter.  It provides traction in our discussions with national leaders.  The desired outcome is a more prominent place for sleep health in national preventive health thinking.  At present its absence is an obvious deficiency.  Indeed a recent audit of knowledge of sleep problems amongst politicians and senior administrators, conducted by Government Relations Australia (a major Canberra-based consultancy) on commission from the Foundation, demonstrated that these problems currently have a very low profile. We have work to do– all of us.

What is required?

A systematic grass roots engagement with our local members and senators to discuss sleep health with them at a local level.   We need to help them understand the issues and their importance.  We need to point out to them that doing something about sleep is an investment in the productive side of our economy, as well as a means of improving wellbeing, safety and social interaction.  Such a grass roots movement will need to be supplemented by meetings with politicians and leaders in Canberra, something that the Foundation and the Australasian Sleep Association will work on together.

We will organise a systematic approach to this, including providing some source material to ensure that common themes are covered.  We intend to wait until after the election before running this to avoid distractions.  We will keep you posted on how you can help to promote sleep health as a national preventive health priority.

David Hillman

Chair, Sleep Health Foundation