A quarter of Aussies take sickies for sleep deprivation
Up to half of us sleep poorly on a nightly basis and our 24/7 lifestyle, love affair with technology, anxiety, insomnia and undiagnosed medical conditions are mostly to blame.
Not getting enough shut-eye is a huge public health issue that we keep turning a blind eye to, according to experts, and it's increasing our risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and depression.
Sleep deprivation is causing more people to seek treatment in hospital, turn to cognitive behaviour therapy and hypnotherapy, and sign up for home-based sleep studies in order to change their behaviour and catch the quality Zs they require.
Dr David Hillman, a sleep physician at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and deputy chairman of the Sleep Health Foundation, said the problem was right up there with national health issues such as smoking, alcohol consumption, sensible diet and exercise - it's just not as visible.
"Sleep is a state that perforates into all of our organs. Its fingers stretch widely and impact on a lot of health issues," Dr Hillman said.
"As a nation, we are undisciplined about creating good sleep routines.
"Some people wear short sleep as a badge of honour, but it's not smart or tough to go without sleep."
His comments come ahead of Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt releasing a Deloitte Access Economics Report the Sleep Health Foundation commissioned, Asleep on the Job: Costs of Inadequate Sleep in Australia, on Tuesday.
"Some of the numbers in there are huge," Dr Hillman said.
"People think losing sleep doesn't penalise anyone but themselves. Well, it does."
A quarter of working Australians may take one sick day per month as a result of poor sleep, according to a recent survey.
Alarmingly high rates of internet use just before bed (44% of adults reportedly do this every night) were identified as a major problem in another study the Sleep Health Foundation commissioned last year.
Dr Hillman attributed this to the pervasiveness of mobile phones and social media.
"Social media is a growing issue for us and convincing teenagers and young adults, who are vulnerable to exclusion, to disengage is difficult," he said.
Perth-based clinical psychologist Melissa Ree, of Sleep Matters Insomnia Solutions, which operates north and south of the river, has seen an increasing incidence in sleep problems.
Dr Ree offers a sleep-related form of psychology.
"Many people are living in circumstances that prohibit time for sleep, such as working long hours, FIFO workers and having kids who wake through the night," she said.
Dr Ree said stress, anxiety and depression all caused insomnia, and each of these disorders was on the rise.
"People are becoming aware that the most effective long-term treatment is not a pill, it's cognitive behaviour therapy for insomnia," she said.
"Treatment guidelines around the world recommend CBT-I as the first-line treatment for insomnia. About 80 per cent of those treated with CBT-I will benefit and the benefits are long-lasting."
Clinical hypnotherapist Christine Carter, of Advanced Clinical Hypnotherapy & Counselling in Scarborough, said she worked with people who were "absolutely desperate to get a good night's sleep".
"We live in a very high-pressured society at the moment and it's causing people to be more stressed and anxious," Ms Carter said.
"If you get into bed stressed, you put a lot of fear into your subconscious mind that you can't sleep. If people get into bed with their phone, they'll be even more stressed."
Sleep Clinic Services chief executive Brett Chamberlain said snoring, waking up tired, daytime sleepiness and mood swings were warning signs that your sleep was impaired.
"Most sleep apnoea sufferers are undiagnosed and consequently untreated," Mr Chamberlain said
"When we see a person snoring while asleep, we laugh it off," he said.
"Snoring is not normal. It is just very, very common. One in three Australian adults suffers from some sort of sleep-disordered breathing.
"Anyone with concerns about their sleep should ask their GP for a sleep study referral."