Sleep not a priority for many, study finds

Nearly one quarter of Australians surveyed said they experienced fatigue or exhaustion as a result of their lack of sleep. Photo / Thinkstock
Nearly one quarter of Australians surveyed said they experienced fatigue or exhaustion as a result of their lack of sleep. Photo / Thinkstock

Australians aren't spending enough time in the land of nod, raising fears that many people think sleeping has become a waste of time.

A survey of 1500 people aged 14 to 70 found the average Australian only sleeps for seven hours a night instead of the recommended eight.

And long, lazy weekend sleep-ins seem to be a thing of the past, with the average lie in only stretching to 45 minutes.

One third of the group did not feel refreshed when they woke up in the morning, with 19 per cent saying their sleepiness interfered with their daily activities.

The problem was particularly evident among 14- to 24-year-olds, nearly half of whom (44 per cent) woke up unrefreshed most days - more than double the number of sleepyheads aged over 65.

Nearly one quarter of people experienced fatigue or exhaustion as a result of their lack of sleep, 10 per cent suffered insomnia and 19 per cent had their dreams interrupted by their partner snoring.

The findings were based on a Roy Morgan survey commissioned by the recently formed Sleep Health Foundation, which is calling for the federal government to make sleep a national priority like exercise and a healthy diet.

The foundation's chair Dr David Hillman said it appeared many Australians believed sleep was a waste of time without realising the impact a lack of shut-eye can have on their health.

Not enough sleep makes people less productive at work, more prone to accidents and irritable, he said.

"The thing that concerns us is that people aren't making particularly good choices about how to prioritise sleep," said Dr Hillman, who heads the pulmonary physiology and sleep medicine department at Perth's Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.

"Lots of people think that sleep is a waste of time. But it's not wasted time, it's time well spent."

Dr Hillman said part of the problem was the amount of time people stayed up late using the internet, social media, electronic games and mobile phones.

As a result they were less refreshed in the morning, which often affected their emotions and their ability to work.

The foundation has backed calls by Dr Christine Bennett, the chair of the new Australian Preventive Health Agency who wants sleep made a national health issue.

Dr Hillman said having a government policy on sleep would stress the importance of making getting enough rest a priority in people's daily lives.

"It's a bit of a misconception that going very short of sleep is making you more productive," he said.

"You can catch up on it but in the mean time you haven't worked as well or done things as well as you really could have."

- AAP

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