High proportion of Australians struggling with sleep

Amanda Lyons

25/11/2019 2:30:13 PM

New research has revealed how many Australian adults are experiencing significant problems with sleep – and how few of them seek help.

Sleep problems.
Recent research conducted by the Sleep Health Foundation has found a significant number of Australians are finding it difficult to get enough sleep.

A new report has detailed just how common sleep problems are across the adult population in Australia.
‘About 60% of people report at least one sleep symptom occurring three or more times per week,’ Professor Robert Adams lead author of the report and spokesperson for the Sleep Health Foundation, said.
Symptoms experienced by 59.4% of the study’s respondents at least once, three or four times in a week, included trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking too early and not being able to get back to sleep.
Of these respondents, 14.8% had symptoms severe enough to potentially result in a diagnosis of clinical insomnia.
Despite the fact that chronic sleep problems are associated with some serious consequences for health and wellbeing – ranging from increased risk of chronic conditions such as hypertension and obesity, to accident or injury resulting from sleep deprivation and poor mental health – the report found relatively few Australians talked to their doctors about sleep issues.
‘When discussed, it is often only raised as a secondary issue during a consultation for other reasons,’ Professor Dorothy Bruck, Chair of the Sleep Foundation, said.
This finding remained the same even in people who met the diagnostic criteria for chronic insomnia disorder, meaning that many people with serious sleep problems are not accessing treatment or help for their condition.
Sleep problems were reported across all demographics within the study, with no variations in prevalence by age or gender. But there were some differences in symptoms experienced relating to age, with older people more likely to sustain sleep, waking up overnight or early in the morning (47%), while younger people had more difficulty falling asleep (32%).
There were also gender differences when it came to worrying about sleep, with significantly more female than male respondents reporting ‘often or always’ worrying about getting a good night’s sleep (31% to 21%) or being overwhelmed by thoughts when trying to sleep (35% to 25%).
Women and younger adults were also more likely to report daytime impairments resulting from lack of sleep, such as fatigue, irritability and inability to concentrate.
Chronic, ‘high frequency’ sleep symptoms, where they had persisted for three months or longer, were present in 50.4% of respondents. These did not differ by sex, though they did by age in that they were more likely to be experienced by older people.
The study also found that activities in the hour before going to bed did not appear to impact significantly on insomnia prevalence, with similar rates shown by those who routinely used technology, worked, ate, drank alcohol or social media during that time and those who did not.
Study authors were concerned, however, that only half of respondents reported regular space in their daily routine for adequate sleep.
‘This suggests that for a huge proportion of our population, the pressures of work, families, social, or other lifestyle-related pressures prohibit them for getting the shut-eye they need,’ Professor Adams said.
In addition to determining the prevalence of sleep problems and chronic insomnia among Australian adults, the Sleep Foundation is hopeful the report will raise awareness about the condition.
‘It’s troubling to see just how common it is for Australians to struggle with their sleep when it’s such a vital aspect of good health and happiness,’ Professor Adams said.
‘Failing to get the quality or quantity of sleep you need affects your mood, safety, and health, not to mention your relationships with family and friends.
‘It’s very important to get it right.’
Professor Bruck also hopes to encourage greater help-seeking and access to effective approaches to insomnia treatment such as cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBTi) and establishing good sleep hygiene.
‘CBTi … really works and yet, worryingly, very few people are accessing it,’ she said.

Cognitive behavioural therapy insomnia Sleep Sleep disorders Sleep hygiene

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Dr Dannielle Maria Kolos   27/11/2019 1:59:49 PM

The medicalprofession needs to recognise the existence of a condition - diurnal variation in sleep onset affecting at least 50% of the population. Some people naturally fall asleep later at night and wake later in the morning. Some people fall asleep earlier at night and wake up earlier in the morning. Society caters for the latter, with most occupations expecting early appearance at place of employment. If work hours were staggered to give the later sleepers a chance to catch up with sleep, productivity would increase and relationships at work would improve. This diurnal variation can only be varied by one hour either way.