House debates

Wednesday, 21 October 2020



7:55 pm

Photo of Fiona MartinFiona Martin (Reid, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Alongside diet and exercise, sleep is one of the most important pillars of good mental and physical health, yet with our busy lifestyles we often sacrifice a good night's sleep in order to squeeze in more hours during the day. Sleep is restorative. It's our body's way to rest and repair. Having a good night's sleep is important for brain function, muscle repair and metabolism.

In order to maintain good mental and physical health, adults should, on average, sleep seven to nine hours per night, whereas young children, three to five years of age, at that critical stage of their development, should, on average, sleep 11 to 13 hours a night. According to Deloitte Access Economics and the Sleep Foundation, almost 40 per cent of Australians suffer from insufficient sleep. Lack of sleep leads to an increased risk of a number of medical conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, stroke, depression and anxiety, and Alzheimer's disease. It plays a major role in productivity loss across the Australian workforce and, tragically, is one of the leading causes of road fatalities. It was also estimated that from 2016 to 2017 insufficient sleep cost Australia a total of $66.3 billion. The toll on our individual health and Australia's economy suggests we need to be taking our sleepless nights much more seriously.

I recently met with Michelle Chadwick, the chairperson of Sleep Disorders Australia, a not-for-profit organisation that offers support, assistance and information to people affected by sleep disorders. Michelle stressed that better education around sleep health and hygiene is essential in mitigating many of the conditions caused by insufficient sleep. In my clinical work as a psychologist, I would often ask patients to keep a sleep diary to record the hours of sleep they had and their sleep habits and behaviours. A common problem for people who reported poor sleep habits was the impact of digital devices. They reported how tech impacted on their ability to switch off and rest. Insufficient sleep often maintains psychological symptoms, and I saw firsthand how addressing sleep difficulties resulted in symptom reduction for mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.

Good sleep hygiene is so important to maintaining good physical and mental health. Investing in sleep health is a cost-effective approach to preventing common mental and physical health conditions, and it will boost productivity in the workforce. Last year, the Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport tabled a report on sleep health awareness in Australia, and I commend the member for North Sydney for leading the inquiry. One of the committee's recommendations was that the Australian government, in partnership with the states and territories and key stakeholder groups, work to develop a national sleep awareness campaign. A national sleep awareness campaign would help provide practical information about how to improve sleep. It would help individuals identify the symptoms, causes and health impacts of sleep disorders. It would also help individuals seek help, including psychological help, and medical support. We've seen how successful similar health campaigns have been for smoking, driving tired or drink driving, and we know that education campaigns work. If individuals have greater awareness and education and better understand the risks of insufficient sleep, we will prevent a number of much more serious issues and we will see better outcomes for the health, safety and productivity of Australians.

House adjourned at 20:00