UP TO half of us sleep poorly on a nightly basis and our 24/7 lifestyle, love affair with technology, anxiety, insomnia and undiagnosed med...

A quarter of Aussies take sickies for sleep deprivation

UP TO half of us sleep poorly on a nightly basis and our 24/7 lifestyle, love affair with technology, anxiety, insomnia and undiagnosed medical conditions are mostly to blame.

Not getting enough shut-eye is a huge public health issue that we keep turning a blind eye to, according to experts, and it’s increasing our risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and depression.

Sleep deprivation is causing more people to seek treatment in hospital, turn to cognitive behavior therapy and hypnotherapy, and sign up for home-based sleep studies in order to change their behavior and catch the quality Zs they require.

Dr. David Hillman, a sleep physician at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and deputy chairman of the Sleep Health Foundation, said the problem was right up there with national health issues such as smoking, alcohol consumption, sensible diet, and exercise — it’s just not as visible.

“Sleep is a state that perforates into all of our organs. Its fingers stretch widely and impact on a lot of health issues,” he said.

“As a nation, we are undisciplined about creating good sleep routines.

“Some people wear short sleep as a badge of honor, but it’s not smart or tough to go without sleep.”

His comments come ahead of Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt releasing a Deloitte Access Economics Report the Sleep Health Foundation commissioned, Asleep on the Job: Costs of Inadequate Sleep in Australia, on Tuesday.

“Some of the numbers in there are huge,” Dr. Hillman said. “People think losing sleep doesn’t penalize anyone but themselves. Well, it does.”

A quarter of working Australians may take one sick day per month as a result of poor sleep, according to a recent survey.

Alarmingly high rates of internet use just before bed (44 per cent of adults reportedly do this every night) were identified as a major problem in another study the Sleep Health Foundation commissioned last year. Dr Hillman attributed this to the pervasiveness of mobile phones and social media.

“Social media is a growing issue for us and convincing teenagers and young adults, who are vulnerable to exclusion, to disengage is difficult,” he said.

Perth-based clinical psychologist Melissa Ree, of Sleep Matters Insomnia Solutions, which operates north and south of the river, has seen an increasing incidence in sleep problems. She offers a sleep-related form of psychology.

“Many people are living in circumstances that prohibit time for sleep, such as working long hours, FIFO workers and having kids who wake through the night,” she said.

Dr. Ree said stress, anxiety, and depression all caused insomnia, and each of these disorders was on the rise.

“People are becoming aware that the most effective long-term treatment is not a pill, it’s cognitive behavior therapy for insomnia (CBT-I),” she said.

“Treatment guidelines around the world recommend CBT-I as the first-line treatment for insomnia. About 80 per cent of those treated with CBT-I will benefit and the benefits are long-lasting.”

Clinical hypnotherapist Christine Carter, of Advanced Clinical Hypnotherapy & Counselling in Scarborough, said she worked with people who were “absolutely desperate to get a good night’s sleep”.

“We live in a very high-pressured society at the moment and it’s causing people to be more stressed and anxious,” she said.

“If you get into bed stressed, you put a lot of fear into your subconscious mind that you can’t sleep. If people get into bed with their phone, they’ll be even more stressed.”

Sleep Clinic Services chief executive Brett Chamberlain said snoring, waking up tired, daytime sleepiness and mood swings were warning signs that your sleep was impaired.

“Most sleep apnoea sufferers are undiagnosed and consequently untreated,” he said. “When we see a person snoring while asleep, we laugh it off. Snoring is not normal. It is just very, very common. One in three Australian adults suffer from some sort of sleep-disordered breathing.

“Anyone with concerns about their sleep should ask their GP for a sleep study referral.”

The former pediatric nurse turned sought-after sleep consultant Tara Mitchell says sleep deprivation doesn’t have to be part and parcel of parenting a newborn or toddler.

“I just don’t believe that children shouldn’t sleep well,” she said. “The whole family suffers and so many parents think it’s just the way it is, but they’re on the brink and then get to points where they never pictured they’d be.”

Mrs. Mitchell, aka The Gentle Sleep Specialist, said she, too, was in the grips of sleep deprivation after her first child, Scarlett, now three-and-a-half, was born when she started studying to become a qualified consultant on the matter.

“I spent so long trying to get my daughter to sleep, but it was a completely different journey with my second child,” she said. “Sleep is the pillar of health and I’m passionate about providing people with support and guidance to make effective changes throughout their days and nights. Once you prioritize sleep, you thrive instead of just survive.”

Mrs. Mitchell said a lot of people think sleep can be sacrificed for other things, but it can’t.

“It’s not a stagnant state, the brain does amazing things during this time,” she said. “Once we get sleep sorted, some babies are able to come off medication required for reflux.”