Hey sleepy heads, this is your wake-up call

On World Sleep Day, we discover the hefty costs of sleeplessness.

man sleeping soundly

Who knew there was a gene for sleeping? Who knew that the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine went to academics Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael Young for the discovery of that gene?

Well you must spend too much time reading and not enough sleeping.

The really important development will be when scientists can modify the DNA in newborns to ensure that gene is well and truly present at birth so they will sleep as babies should – immediately.

We raise this issue because it’s World Sleep Day. There seem to be countless world ‘something’ days, but sleep affects us all on a daily basis so it is worth marking. And a lack of sleep is definitely no laughing matter.

The experts say that healthy adults need seven to nine hours of sleep every night – but 40 per cent fail to achieve it.

 A report released late last year estimates that sleep-related issues cost Australia $66 million annually – a $26.2 billion in financial costs and $40.1 billion in loss of wellbeing.

The report, conducted by Deloitte Access Economics on behalf of the Sleep Health Foundation, estimates that 39.8 per cent of Australian adults experience some form of inadequate sleep.

It says that sleep deprivation was linked to 3017 deaths in 2016-17 – 394 as a result of drivers falling asleep at the wheel or from industrial accidents due to lack of sleep. The remaining deaths were due to heart disease and diabetes linked to sleep disorders.

Our sleep patterns are controlled by circadian rhythms – the 24-hour cycles which are generated automatically by a clock in the brain and which are synchronised – when they’re stable – to day and night. Stuff up your circadian rhythm and there will be consequences.

“If we continually disrupt our rhythms, for example through shift work or burning the midnight oil, then we increase the risk of sleep disorders, mental health disorders and chronic health issues such as obesity, diabetes and even some cancers,” say researchers.

Light is vital in maintaining the biological clock.

When the eye senses light, it sends signals to the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the brain. This resets the clock every day. Researchers explain that our rhythms cycle about every 24.1 hours but daylight keeps us in synch.

The influence of light also explains why we are able to adjust to new time zones when we travel, although we are likely to suffer jetlag for several days.

Sleep, a balanced diet and regular exercise are recognised as the three pillars of good health. Here’s what you can do to maintain or develop good sleep habits:

  • wind down for an hour before going to bed
  • don’t go to bed on a full stomach – or an empty one
  • if you’re not asleep after 20 minutes, go to another room until you feel tired and then try again
  • don’t have things in the bedroom that distract you from sleep
  • avoid blue light emitted from electronic screens
  • get a little sunlight during the day to help you sleep better at night
  • a nap in the afternoon can make it hard to sleep at night.

Are you a good sleeper? What’s your secret?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    16th Mar 2018
    What about staying asleep where initially going to sleep is not a problem. But waking up say 4 to 5 hours later is the norm and difficulty going back to sleep ? Have tried many so called solutions with little success.
    16th Mar 2018
    Try the 7-4-7 remedy. Breathe in for 7 seconds - hold breath for 4 seconds - breathe out through the mouth for 7 seconds. Then you will need a good deep breath and you won't remember anything else till you wake up hours later.
    16th Mar 2018
    I see the sleep method is also called the 4-7-8 sleep method -- see http://www.medicaldaily.com/life-hack-sleep-4-7-8-breathing-exercise-will-supposedly-put-you-sleep-just-60-332122

    I think that the main thing is that you calm down and focus on your breathing.
    16th Mar 2018
    I am usually a relatively good sleeper. But after a prolonged spell in hospital, having a lot of trouble getting back to normal sleep routine. Go to sleep OK, but waking up every 1 - 2 hours through the night. This is of course what happens in hospital, when the staff come around to do observations through the night, not to mention the noise in a shared ward (snoring, staff talking etc). And don't even get me started on the wonderful staff who come in at 4.30 am and put on the overhead lights while they do their routine tasks. I guess it may take a while to get back to normal. But so nice to be back in my own bed!
    16th Mar 2018
    You and me both Johnp, seem to do that ever since I retired a year ago, very frustrating and then when I eventually fall back to sleep, the dreaming starts, I’me constantly staggered how your brain can create such complicated stories, which leave you exhausted in the morning, wonder how many other people experience this? And what’s the answer? Horlicks? Sleeping pills? Meditation?
    16th Mar 2018
    couple suggestions which have helped me a bit
    there a lots of suggestions out there, internet, books etc, if prepared to search for them
    - Endep tablets seem to be quite good with little or no side effects for me but must get thru doctors prescription and take several hours before bed - only take one occasionally when problem gets to me
    - A drop of lavender oil on sleeping mask which I put on after waking early hours of the morning (sleep mask helps anyway when daylight starts - no day light saving here unfortunately)
    16th Mar 2018
    Me too John.
    16th Mar 2018
    I can go to sleep at anytime I want to no problems. Years of working shifts from being 1 hour on, 1 hour off to a sliding shift roster. I taught my mind and body to relax and switch off. Breath reqularly and mentally tell your body to relax starting at the toes and progress slowly up the body, stopping a ankles, knees, etc., for a time until they relax. At one time decided I was tired so lay down on the floor during a New Years Party and went to sleep. My wife says I could sleep on a picket fence! I agree!
    16th Mar 2018
    Lavender oil certainly works - plus a glass of warm milk with honey!

    Tags: sleep, world, health

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