House debates

Monday, 18 March 2024

Private Members' Business

Health Care: Sleep

7:16 pm

Photo of Jenny WareJenny Ware (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to speak in favour of this motion brought by the member for Macarthur, and I thank the honourable member for bringing this important issue about sleep health to the parliament. Overall, I thank the member for all of the work that he does as Chair of the Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport, where I am privileged to serve with him.

Sleep health should be recognised for its importance in preventive health and wellbeing alongside other things such as fitness and nutrition. Studies have shown that it is just as important. Approximately one in five Australians are estimated to be affected by major sleep disorders, and these can include obstructive sleep apnoea, insomnia, restless leg syndrome, circadian rhythm disorders and central disorders of excessive sleepiness. Anyone who unfortunately, like me, wakes regularly at one o'clock or two o'clock in the morning, tosses and turns and then tries to function the next day knows the importance that sleep plays in being able to carry out and live our very busy lives.

As well as the immediate effects of fatigue, sleep disorders may also contribute to other health conditions, and these can include diabetes, obesity, mental ill health and cardiovascular disease. Other causes of sleep deprivation include work-life challenges, excessive screen time and poor mental health. It is essential to promote sleep as a foundation of ensuring positive health and wellbeing outcomes in combination with good nutrition and healthy exercise.

I do note that the House Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport in 2019 was tasked with inquiring into and reporting on sleep health awareness in Australia. Particularly, the committee looked at five main areas: the potential and known causes, impacts and costs of inadequate sleep and sleep disorders on the community; the access to support and treatment available for individuals experiencing inadequate sleep; education, training and professional development available to healthcare workers in the diagnosis, treatment and management of individuals experiencing inadequate sleep and health disorders; workplace awareness, practices and assistance available to those who may be impacted by inadequate sleep or sleep disorders, particularly focusing on rostering practices for shift workers, for example; and, finally, current national research and investment into sleep health and sleeping disorders. The final report made 11 recommendations to the Australian government in relation to national health priorities, guidelines for workplaces, the MBS, the orphan drug program, market competition, research, the role of GPs and specialist treatments and community awareness, particularly among vulnerable groups.

Overwhelmingly, though, the committee recommended that the government prioritise sleep health as a national priority and recognise its importance to health and wellbeing hand in hand with fitness and nutrition. I am pleased to say that the government responded in August 2023 and has adopted in principle or in full most of those recommendations. I commend the minister for that decision.

When in government, the coalition introduced the National Preventive Health Strategy, which aimed to provide more balance to the health system by enhancing the focus on prevention. It's very pleasing that the current government has continued with this strategy which recognises that sleep predominantly, alongside nutrition and physical activity, is essential to preventing poor physical health and wellbeing. The length and quality of sleep over the life course are also recognised as protective factors contributing to positive mental health and wellbeing throughout life.

When we have evidence that indicates that developing and maintaining good sleep habits can support positive health outcomes, particularly where those habits are established at an early stage of the life course, I commend both this motion and the actions of the government and the previous standing committee on health for bringing this important matter to the parliament.


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