House debates

Monday, 18 March 2024

Private Members' Business

Health Care: Sleep

7:21 pm

Photo of Josh WilsonJosh Wilson (Fremantle, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

It's always good to be reminded that some of the most powerful contributions to health and wellbeing happen to be relatively basic and accessible elements of day-to-day life—what we eat, what we do with exercise and how we sleep. But perhaps that third element doesn't get the attention it deserves, and I'm glad to be part of this motion with the members for Macarthur and Hughes to try to change that to a small degree.

There's certainly evidence that too many Australians sleep badly and that too many of us are taking poor sleep for granted, or, at least, feeling like there's no real alternative other than to put up with something we assume can't be fixed. That's wrong, and it's consigning millions of Australians to unnecessary and sometimes quite serious impacts on their physical and mental health with broader consequences for productivity and health system costs.

In 2019, the Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport tabled a report titled Bedtime Reading: Inquiry into Sleep Health Awareness in Australia, which the member for Macarthur played a key role in. It pointed to the fact that four in 10 Australians report at least one sleep related problem, up to half of 16- to 17-year-olds are not getting enough sleep on school nights and that one in five adults are diagnosed with a sleep disorder, if you combine obstructive sleep apnoea, restless leg syndrome and insomnia. And that's pretty rough. I know people in my family and among my friends who contribute to those statistics.

Beyond the personal impact, Deloitte has assessed the economy-wide financial costs of inadequate sleep as comprising $1.8 billion in health system costs and $17.9 billion in lost productivity. If you look at it the other way around, the benefits of good sleep are almost impossible to overstate. In the Bedtime Reading report, Professor Matthew Walker stated:

… there does not seem to be one major organ in the body, or process within the brain that is not optimally enhanced by sleep (and detrimentally impaired when we do not get enough).

I'm grateful to the member for Macarthur for bringing the motion and for his work on this issue over a number of years. The motion, to some degree, has been prompted by our shared participation in the SBS series Australia's Sleep Revolution with Dr Michael Mosley and the excellent people from the University of South Australia. The final episode runs this Wednesday. I'm not going to suggest that it will help you go to sleep; I think it's actually reasonably exciting. I wholeheartedly endorse the message and mission that lie at the core of the series, namely that we need to wake up, hopefully, after eight peaceful hours, to the vital importance of sleep and that we need to ensure that identifying and remediating poor sleep is a core purpose of primary health care.

As I've said, the three part series concludes on Wednesday. Some of the people in it include four federal parliamentarians: myself, the members for Macarthur and New England, and Senator Lambie. I am definitely the least interesting of that quartet. They focused on us because we all live professional lives that involve frequent travel and a range of other challenges that can impact on the ability to get good sleep but also because we have a role in the national health policy conversation.

I'm lucky to be a relatively good sleeper, and that's probably why I don't feature too much in the documentary. The truth is that I've always recognised a central value of sleep to my broader sense of wellbeing. That's why I prioritise getting enough sleep as much as I can. That's why I make choices in order to give myself the best chance of sleeping well, especially as I travel across Australia something like 20 times a year, back and forth from east to west, and constantly manage a two- to three-hour time difference.

But no-one who experiences seriously poor sleep should blame themselves. Most importantly, no-one should fall into the trap of believing that there's nothing that can be done in order to sleep better. People should talk to their GP. People should check out the information that's available through the Sleep Health Foundation or the 'sleep' page of the Healthdirect website. We all deserve to get better sleep. We shouldn't just take it for granted.

The Albanese government, through the work of Minister Mark Butler, is focused on improving the scope, quality, access and affordability of our public health system at every turn, because we know that Medicare, the PBS, our public hospitals and the new Medicare urgent care clinics are the foundation of our shared wellbeing. When it comes to sleep, the National Preventive Health Strategy will continue to focus on raising awareness of the disorders that contribute to fatigue, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and poor mental health while looking at new ways to support healthy sleeping.

I want to finish by thanking the team behind the making of Australia's Sleep Revolution, including Artemis Media, a brilliant factual filmmaker in my electorate of Fremantle that was involved in the series. On a completely trivial note, after two weeks of quite bizarre testing and high-tech sleep scrutiny, I was able to come away with a document that states officially that I don't snore, which I consider a big win—that document is very precious to me! Thanks again for having this debate.

Debate adjourned.

Federation Chamber adjourned at 19:26


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