Sleeplessness is damaging our everyday lives more than we realise.
It has been estimated that more than 7.4 million Australians do not get enough sleep.
Sleep disorders affect our daily functioning, health and wellbeing, contribute to heart disease and in worst cases premature death.
Deloitte Access Economics assessed the health system costs associated with inadequate sleep to be approximately $1.8 billion in 2016-17.
Poor sleep costs the economy $66 billion a year in health bills and contributes to more than 3,000 deaths a year. More than 394 of these deaths were the result of industrial accidents or from people falling asleep at the wheel of a vehicle.
In children, insufficient sleep or underlying sleep disorders can cause developmental delays, anxiety and depression.
October 1-7 is Sleep Awareness Week, which is about educating the public about what is considered “normal sleep” so they are able to determine if they are having insufficient sleep or may have a sleep disorder.
Cabrini Sleep Paediatrician Dr Amanda Griffiths said the week prompted conversations about the real cost of sleep loss on the community.
“It’s about helping people understand ways to help themselves, as well as where to go for Sleep health assistance,” Dr Griffiths said.
“For adults, the focus this year is on caffeine consumption and how this seemingly innocent habit may actually be disguising either insufficient sleep or an underlying sleep disorder. For Paediatrics, one of the major target areas is ensuring children get the required sleep they need. Research has found adolescents have been sleeping an average of six-and-a-half to seven hours a night, where they should be sleeping eight to ten hours a night.”
“One of the biggest barriers preventing adolescents getting enough sleep is internet usage and screen time.”
“Sleep hygiene is all about the things you can do to improve your overnight sleep. Some of these things include; establishing a good routine in the evenings, exercising regularly during the day and minimizing caffeine intake in the later part of the day.
“Bedtimes are best kept relatively consistent, with a period of “down time” leading up to bedtime, which is low stimulation and ideally without screens for an hour or more before bed. Lights can be dimmed, parents can read with their children, bath them, or engage in quiet play up until bedtime.”
Dr Griffiths said parents should lead by example and set good bedtime routines for themselves, which include limiting screen time before bed.
“The messages about good sleep hygiene should flow across the entire family, rather than just be directed at the children, so that everyone improves their sleep health and wellbeing.”
Dr Griffiths said knowing what was “normal sleep” was important.
“Normal sleep is both normal duration and adequate quality,” she said.
“Daytime tiredness or waking unrefreshed can be signs of inadequate or abnormal sleep. Underlying sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnoea, can lead to these symptoms despite seemingly normal or excessive sleep duration.”
Dr Griffiths said parents should watch out for any signs that may indicate a sleep disorder, such as snoring, pauses in breathing, restless sleep and daytime tiredness or concentration difficulties.
Difficulty settling to sleep at bedtime or waking for long periods overnight are also problems, which can be addressed and improved to maximize sleep health.
“Sleep difficulties, sleep insufficiency and sleep disorders can all have significant impacts on daytime functioning and can potentially lead to more serious health problems,” Dr Griffiths said.
“Children with untreated sleep disorders can be compromised in their development or learning and may become more anxious or depressed and in some circumstances develop high blood pressure and be at increased risk of cardiovascular disease.”
“Daytime tiredness can also be a significant problem for older teens learning to drive, with a risk of motor vehicle accidents similar to those in adults with sleep disorders or suffering from insufficient sleep.”
Dr Griffiths said it was important to adopt good sleeping habits early in life.
“Sleep habits can be successfully developed from very early in life and sustained across a lifetime,” she said.
“It is very important if children are not settling to sleep early on that help is sought so that problems can be corrected and allow good habits to form.”
“Seeking help is a must, as children’s sleep problems lead to overtired parents who don’t cope well during the day and are at risk on the roads and during their daily routines.”
The Federal Government has recently commenced an Inquiry into Sleep Health Awareness in Australia.
The Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport invites people to make a submission to the Inquiry by 18 October 2018.
Speak to your GP about getting a referral to a Cabrini sleep specialist today or visit cabrini.com.au to learn more.
Dr Griffiths’ top tips regarding good sleep hygiene:
Learn more about our Cabrini Sleep and Respiratory Services