Fuelled by digital devices, a reliance on caffeine and bringing work home, people are increasingly flouting sleep health guidelines and paying the ultimate price. A new report by Deloitte Access Economics, commissioned by Sleep Health Foundation, reveals more Australians are dying from causes related to sleep deprivation than on the roads.
In 2016-17, 3,017 deaths were linked to sleep deprivation — including 394 deaths from industrial accidents or road crashes due to lack of sleep. Health conditions linked to lack of sleep including heart disease and diabetes are also killing people with four in 10 Australians suffering from inadequate sleep. Australia’s road toll in 2016 was 1,292.
The problem is being fuelled by digital devices, a reliance on caffeine, and bringing work home. Deloitte says bad sleep cost Australia $66.3 billion in 2016-2017 including $26.2 billion from the financial burden of health care, loss productivity and accidents. The remaining $40 billion has been attributed to “loss of wellbeing” from sleep deprivation.
The foundation’s chair Professor Dorothy Bruck said sleep must be prioritised like diet and exercise. “Sleep affects every single cell of the body in every organ of the body. With diabetes we have seen in studies of otherwise healthy people that when you deprive them of sleep their whole glucose metabolism is compromised and they actually go into a pre-diabetic state,” she said.
The people suffered the “significant” changes in their metabolism after just a week of having five hours of sleep a night. Sleep deprivation also depletes the hormone that makes people feel full causing them to gorge and gain weight. It also wreaks havoc on heart health with about 12 per cent of Australians living with undiagnosed sleep apnoea which restricts oxygen flow and puts a strain on the heart.
“It is getting worse because we are much more of a 24/7 society, always available with technology, taking work home, working later than we should and being on screens before bed,” Prof Bruck said.
“And over reliance on coffee as a stimulant means these things can become a vicious cycle. The light from digital devices suppresses hormones that make people feel sleepy which cuts into the crucial 7.5 — 8 hours of recommended nightly sleep".
3000 deaths were linked to sleep deprivation including 394 from industrial accidents or road crashes due to lack of sleep. The foundation wants a public health campaign about sleep and also called for building design standards that increase natural light and stricter workplace health and safety rules.
The report also called for better policing of tired drivers. Drivers who have had 17 hours of sleep deprivation perform the same behind the wheel as someone with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05 per cent. “This clearly shows that we have an epidemic of disabling sleep loss affecting a large chunk of our population,” Prof Bruck said. “We have 7.4 million Australians who are not getting the sleep they need to fully function throughout the day.”
Author Rose Brennan.
Updated August 8 2017
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