An Australian report warning of a sleep crisis Down Under has caught the attention of global health experts working to establish sleep as a top priority worldwide.
The leading medical journal SLEEP has published results of a startling report from Australia that reveals the $66 billion annual cost of sleeplessness on our economy.
The paper warns the Australian data, the most detailed collected worldwide to date, provides the clearest view of the economic impact of sleeplessness in advanced economies across the globe.
“Our results can serve as a warning to authorities in all western nations that the large and growing problem of sleeplessness is a considerable drain on economies,” says Dr David Hillman, deputy chair of Australia’s Sleep Heath Foundation, which funded the report by Deloitte Access Economics. “It underlines that we’re in the midst of a worldwide epidemic of inadequate sleep that needs immediate attention through education, regulation and brand new initiatives.”
The report, published last August, estimated 7.4 million Australians regularly missed out on adequate shut eye in the 2016-2017 financial year. The problem costs $26.2b a year in health bills, lost productivity and accident expenses, and a further $40.1b in loss of wellbeing.
The new paper, published this week by Oxford University Press, warns much of the Americas, Europe and Asia will be contending with similarly huge sleep-related costs.
“For instance, we know in the United States some 35 per cent of adults are not getting the recommended seven hours of sleep each night,” Dr Hillman says. “Based on our calculations and their much bigger population, lack of sleep will be costing them over $500b a year.”
Studies out of Canada, the United Kingdom, France and Singapore show a similar problem, and some data indicates it’s getting worse, with up to 45 per cent of adults routinely sleep deprived.
Dr Hillman says sleeplessness is a modern day issue. “With our increasingly busy, tech-driven lifestyles there is a growing temptation to use the dark, quiet hours that used to be spent asleep to pursue other activities,” he says. “It might be work, social or family activities, or just “me time”. Swapping out this precious sleep has a devastating effect on the brain’s ability to refresh for the next day, leaving a person tired, moody, less productive and more accident prone.”
The Australian expert urges sleep specialists in other developed nations to conduct their own economic evaluations with the hope of spurring governments into action.
“Unfortunately sleep health is currently languishing behind issues like healthy diet, regular exercise, moderation of alcohol intake and smoking cessation as a priority for attention and expenditure,” Dr Hillman says. “With hard evidence showing the true and astonishing costs of sleeplessness authorities will be more motivated to spend money to ultimately save money.”
The best place to start is with education campaigns teaching the public about sleep needs and the consequences of not getting enough, he says. “Ignoring it will not make it go away and in the meantime costs, both human and economic, continue to mount to an extraordinary degree. The time to take action is now.”
View the paper, The Economic Cost of Inadequate Sleep, at: https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article-lookup/doi/10.1093/sleep/zsy083
The Sleep Health Foundation 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 www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au.