Sleep is essential to an individual’s health and wellbeing, and is a topic not to be taken lightly. Sleep can have detrimental effects on millions of Australian each year, as studies reveal that Australians are not sleeping enough overall. Looking at sleeping disorders, the effects of sleep deprivation, and common symptoms, this article attempts to create an overall look at common Australian sleep trends.
Not Enough Sleep
Studies by the Sleep Health Foundation reveal that 33-45% of Australians are experiencing poor sleeping patterns, which is increasing fatigue and irritability. While women are the ones more likely to wake up earlier and have more difficulty sleeping, overall 8% of adults are sleeping over 9 hours on average, and 12% are sleeping less than 5 ½ hours (Sleep Health Foundation). Ultimately, the results are becoming more concerning every year with a total 10% rise in poor sleeping patterns from 2010 to 2018, and an average of three thousand lives claimed by poor sleep per year. If Australians are not sleeping well, their ability to safely undertake work and daily actions like driving is significantly decreased.
Sleep Disorders and Sleep Problems
Whilst insomnia is the most common sleep disorder, occurring in 23% of women and 17% of men (Sleep Health Foundation), there are other areas where individuals struggle with sleep. This includes Sleep Apnoea, Restless Legs Syndrome, Narcolepsy, as well as more general snoring and sleepwalking problems. Current key statistics are:
– APF 2017 found that Sleep apnoea prevalence in Australia ranges from 9-38% based on age and gender, where it was present more in males and older individuals.
– Narcolepsy is less common, but still affects 3 million people worldwide (Snore Australia), with Sleep Health Foundation reporting isolated sleep paralysis episodes affecting 15% of the Australian Population
– Sleepwalking was most commonly faced by children aged 6-12 years old
– Loud Snoring on a regular basis was evident in 24% of men and 17% of women (Sleep Health Foundation)
– MyDr (2019) reports that ‘About 5-15 per cent of people may have trouble getting to sleep because they suffer from restless legs syndrome (RLS)’
How do Australians Sleep?
The way individuals sleep can affect their posture, sleep quality and physical wellbeing over time. According to the National Sleep Foundation;
– 41% of Adults frequently sleep in the Foetal Position
– 7% of Adults frequently sleep on their stomach
– 8% of Adults frequently sleep on their back
– 15% of Adults frequently sleep on their side
Therefore, the majority of sleepers opting for the foetal position where the individual is on their side with knees bent and hunched torso, which increases circulation and reduces snoring. However, the curl can create breathing difficulties and result in sorer joints. Whilst sleeping on one’s back is the healthiest option, only a small percentage of Australians are frequenting this position, which could be a contributing reason for the increase of individuals not sleeping enough. The stomach position is the worst, due to the pressures placed on the neck and back leading to more aches as well as more severe nerve problems.
Other Reasons for Poor Sleep
Due to the increase in technology and an ever-connected digital world, it is becoming harder for individuals to switch off before bed. The increase in screen time particularly close to sleep time can create delays in falling asleep and increase anxiety.
‘Thinking about work’ was also among the highest reasons for a lack of sleep affecting 24% of individuals (Sleep Health Foundation).
According to VicHealth, 44% of people across all ages admitted to using their computers and phones before bed. Additionally, both worrying and illness/physical discomfort prevented Australians from sleeping, experienced by 51% and 27% of Australians respectively during a three-month study by Phillips Global Sleep Survey. Physical discomfort may be due to sleeping positions and mattress comfortability.
Over one-third of adults have more than four caffeinated drinks per day which can prevent their ability to wind down and sleep at the end of the day (Sleep Health Foundation).
Symptoms & Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Common symptoms of sleep deprivation revolve around;
– Constant yawning
– Sleep Inertia
– Poor Centration
– More irritability
– Lack of Motivation
– Increased Appetite
According to APG, when Australians have a bad night of sleep, it significantly increased their brain functioning in the areas of motivation (43%), concentration (35%) and mood (38%). Particularly, memory issues formed, and high blood pressure was a concern for individuals lacking sleep. Moreover, 20-30% of all Australian fatal crashes were a result of fatigue (Allianz). Work-related accidents were also common due to the reduction in concentration and memory. When individuals are running low on sleep, their bodies may store more fat and they tend to gravitate towards unhealthy food alternatives, overall increasing the risks of obtaining type 2 diabetes.
The recommendations of sleeping lengths change per age and do not settle until the adult age of 20 years old. The changes must be accounted for when checking if individuals are sleeping enough;
– Adults: 7-9 hours
– Teenager: 8-11 hours
– Child 6-12: 9-12 hours
– Child 3-5: 10-13 hours
– Child 1-2 years: 11-14 hours
Overall, sleep can have detrimental impacts on an individual’s health. Majority of the population struggles to get enough sleep, due to disorders such as insomnia as well as poor sleeping trends. If individual sleep hygiene increases, including more comfortable sleeping positions, reducing screen time and attributing enough hours to sleep per night, some improvements can be made.