Why too many Aussies are not getting enough sleep

As a kid, the last thing I wanted to do was sleep. I hated it when Mum called, ‘Bedtime!’ Now, just over a year away from turning 60, I see it as one of life’s great luxuries. The more the better, I say!

I’m fortunate enough to be at the stage of life where I can usually get enough sleep at in my preferred time frames. And I’m very lucky that throughout my life, I’ve rarely had trouble getting to or staying asleep.

About 20 years ago I went through a stage of waking at 3am and not being able to get back to sleep. It was only a short phase (a couple of months), but I found it debilitating. I can only imagine how debilitating it must be for those who struggle with that for long periods.

Science backs the importance of sleep in our lives. In a recent podcast, specialist Professor Siobhan Banks quoted research suggesting sleep as the default human state. That’s my kind of research!

There’s no doubt about the importance of good sleep, but are Australians getting the quality and quantity we need? A new report goes a long way to answering those questions.

Wake-up call: The ‘2023 Real Sleep Report’

Late last year Real Insurance published a white paper that provided a comprehensive analysis of Aussie sleeping habits. And it highlighted a number of concerns. The 2023 Real Sleep Report revealed that almost half of Australians (49 per cent) identified sleep issues.

These include insomnia (15 per cent), heavy snoring (14 per cent) and restless leg syndrome (10 per cent). Also on the list were sleep apnoea and chronic fatigue (each 9 per cent). The research also found that 39 per cent of Aussies constantly or frequently battled with falling asleep.

What’s keeping you awake?

Stress and anxiety rank as the top factors keeping Australians awake, with 53 per cent of respondents nominating that as a cause. Other contributors to sleeplessness include financial worries (42 per cent) and family concerns (36 per cent). The study found that women were more inclined than men to blame those factors for sleep struggles.

The report also found that more than half of Aussies (55 per cent believe that eight hours or more is the ideal amount of sleep. However, the average Australian falls short of that mark, with the majority reporting around seven hours per night.  

For those strugglers with a partner, there is an impact, too.

Arounds 26 per cent of Australians in a relationship (married or de-facto) stated a partner’s sleeping issues sometimes kept them awake. Among this group, 40 per cent perceived this as a strain on their relationship. Nearly 38 per cent of respondents tried sleeping in separate rooms to manage those sleep-related issues.

More sex please!

Solutions to sleep problems are many and varied, and often highly individualised. Unsurprisingly, individualised treatment does not come cheap. But a good proportion of Aussies have sought, or would consider, seeking medical assistance.

About 26 per cent of Australians are consulting or have consulted a medical professional to address their sleep issues. Another 28 per cent would consider seeking medical advice to improve their sleep.

However, for those who can get themselves in the mood (not easy when you’re tired!) a cheaper solution could be sex. More than two thirds (68 per cent) of Australians say they have much better sleep if they have frequent sex.

Whether that works for you, only you can know, but finding a way to better sleep is certainly recommended. And from the evidence gleaned in the 2023 Real Sleep Report, there are plenty of Australians who need just that.

Do you have issues with sleep? What have you tried to resolve the problem? Do you have any recommendations for a better night’s rest? Let us know via the comments section below.

Also read: Seven tips for restful sleep on a flight

Written by Andrew Gigacz

Andrew has developed knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income and government entitlements, as well as issues affecting older Australians moving into or living in retirement. He's an accomplished writer with a passion for health and human stories.

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