Sleep disorders affect around one in 10 Australians and it’s costing the economy billions, new research urging a national response has found.
The Deloitte Access Economics report calculated the economic losses from poor sleep totalled $14.4 billion in 2019-20, with sleep apnoea, insomnia and restless legs syndrome often keeping Australians up at night.
That’s equivalent to 0.73 per cent of GDP. Within that, $2.2 billion was made up of absences from work and another $7.5 billion from workers showing up at work but with reduced productivity.
On top of that, Australia suffered a $36.6 billion loss in national wellbeing due to poor sleep. This is measured by putting a price on a healthy year of life, and then assessing how many years of healthy life have been lost to poor sleep and associated conditions.
That takes the total cost of sleep disorders to $51 billion, up from $36.4 billion in 2010.
“What is striking about the results of this analysis is the relatively small amount spent on identifying and treating sleep disorders compared to the large costs of living with their consequences,” Deloitte Access Economics Health and Social Policy team lead Natasha Doherty said.
The report, Rise and try to shine: the social and economic costs of sleep disorders, found that sleep disorders make up 3.2 per cent of the total Australian burden of disease for the year.
“The sleep health crisis described in the report echoes the findings of the federal Parliamentary Inquiry into Sleep Health Awareness, tabled in April 2019,” said Professor David Hillman from the Sleep Health Foundation, which commissioned the report.
“The inquiry made 11 recommendations. The first of these was that the Australian Government should make sleep health a national priority and recognise its importance to health and wellbeing alongside fitness and nutrition.”
However, the Draft National Preventative Health Strategy didn’t respond to this recommendation, instead dedicating the majority of its strategy to diet and exercise.
“It’s absolutely critical for Australia’s long-term preventive health strategy to include sleep health as a priority,” Hillman said.
The researchers recommended sleep health should be considered as much a national health priority as diet and exercise.
They also said guidelines around optimal shift structures, rest breaks and working hours also need to be revisited to ensure those workers are getting adequate rest.
Additionally, the Government should invest in campaigns to raise awareness of the importance of sleep and the triggers for sleep disorders, and carry out research into how electronic devices are affecting sleep patterns, the researchers said.