Your sleep is government business

Guess what’s keeping Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt awake at night? The quality of your sleep!

So concerned is he about the lack of shut-eye Aussies get that he asked a parliamentary inquiry to (figuratively) take a peek into their bedrooms at night.

Chairman of the Sleep Health Awareness in Australia committee Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman told ABC Radio yesterday that he intends to “shine a light” into why four out of 10 Australians are not getting enough sleep … Hope he has a dimmer on his torch!

More than 100 submissions have been lodged since the inquiry was launched in September and over the next few months, there will be public hearings around the nation.

“The inquiry is going to be examining sleep issues over the next couple of months,” Mr Zimmerman said. “The standard advice from health experts is that everyone needs about seven or eight hours of sleep a night.

“So, it’s whether we’re actually getting that adequate amount of sleep, both because of sleep disorders, but also because of lifestyle decisions that we’re making.

“There is good evidence that those are who are not getting adequate sleep are more prone to depression-like symptoms, and that’s a serious concern.

“One of the things that we’ll be looking at specifically is the impact of new technology on sleep patterns.

“This is particularly a problem among young people who are going to bed with their tablets or their smartphones. And what we know is that that can have a very deleterious impact on people’s sleep patterns.

“But we also know that even using a tablet or a TV in your bedroom with a brightness that that involves can actually trick the body into thinking that it’s not night time if it’s used for too long.”

The terms of reference for the inquiry into sleep health are:

  • the potential and known causes, impacts and costs (economic and social) of inadequate sleep and sleep disorders on the community
  • access to, support and treatment available for individuals experiencing inadequate sleep and sleep disorders, including those who are: children and adolescents, from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, living in rural, regional and remote areas, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
  • education, training and professional development available to healthcare workers in the diagnosis, treatment and management of individuals experiencing inadequate sleep and sleep disorders
  • workplace awareness, practices and assistance available to those who may be impacted by inadequate sleep or sleep disorders, with a focus on: rostering practices for shift workers, heavy-work requirements, and the transport industry as compared to international best practice
  • Current national research and investment into sleep health and sleeping disorders.

Do you get enough sleep? If not, can you feel the effects of sleep deprivation on your mental and physical health? Do you think the Government has a role to play in encouraging GPs to take the sleep habits of their patients more seriously?

Written by Olga Galacho

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