Parliamentary Committee: Tabling ‘Bedtime reading: inquiry into sleep health awareness in Australia’ Report

  • April 4, 2019

Mr ZIMMERMAN: by leave—I’m pleased to be able to table the health committee’s report, Bedtime reading: inquiry into sleep health awareness in Australia.

While there are many committee reports tabled in this place that might inadvertently provoke a good night’s sleep, this is one report where it’s actually our objective!

Sleep is a fundamental human need and, along with nutrition and physical exercise, it is one of the pillars of good health. And yet currently four in every 10 Australians are not getting adequate sleep. While many people use limited sleep as a badge of honour, the reality is that very few people can operate optimally on little sleep. As a result of not prioritising sleep, many people are placing their health at risk, as well as reducing their productivity at work. In 2016 and 2017, inadequate sleep was estimated to contribute to 3,017 deaths in Australia and to cost the economy $66.3 billion annually, mostly due to decreased productivity and reduced health and wellbeing.

An emerging issue is the potential for sleep to be affected by smartphones and internet usage. In particular, many children are having their sleep continually disrupted by their smartphones and that can have negative impacts on childhood development, behaviour and performance during the day and at school. There is a strong message for parents in this report.

Some people experience inadequate sleep due to the presence of a sleep disorder, with obstructive sleep apnoea, or OSA, being one of the most prevalent. Without treatment, OSA can have serious health impacts, including weight gain, increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease. In addition, the committee also found that, while not as prevalent as OSA, narcolepsy can have a debilitating impact on a person’s quality of life. The committee heard some heart-wrenching testimony from people with narcolepsy and their parents. There is a need to improve the awareness of this condition, along with other rarer sleep disorders, and for further consideration of how treatment for people with narcolepsy is supported by government and the community.

This report makes a number of recommendations to government, which we hope will be a road map for health agencies, both state and federal. First and foremost, sleep health needs national prioritisation. It is as important as health messages about fitness, nutrition and smoking, and must be treated as one of the pillars of preventive health.

The committee makes other recommendations which are designed to improve support for those with sleep problems—from access to diagnosis to better education for primary health practitioners.

I commend the report to the House.