The Sleep Health Foundation, instigated by the Woodville Lions Club in 2016, has launched its inaugural Sleep Health Awareness campaign.

"It's about to go ballistic," club member Warren Jones told the Dannevirke News.

Jones is a man for whom sleep could be deadly. At any moment in his life he could fall asleep, never to wake up.

Suffering from chronic sleep apnoea, Jones said a sleep apnoea machine became his lifeline.

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His dramatic story led the Woodville Lions Club to support his sleep disorder project by establishing a New Zealand first, the Sleep Health Foundation of New Zealand, to help save the lives of others.

Now with Pahiatua's Shirley Hull at the helm of the foundation, they are starting a million conversations about sleep.

"In Australia the cost of sleep issues is so high it's triggered Parliamentary questions and debate about sleep awareness," Jones said.

This is the Sleep Health Foundation's first sleep awareness week, designed to engage and inform New Zealanders and to encourage the adoption of health choices for good sleep.

Key to starting a million sleep conversations are conversation starter cards, 100,000 of which have been distributed to Lions Club members around New Zealand, for circulation around cafes, coffee bars and other places where they might expect to find a drink coaster.

"The coaster poses three simple questions, why does sleep matter, are you getting enough and what can we do for you?" Hull said.

"Warren's personal story is the driver of this project. He's got a big heart, a passion and it's amazing what he and the Woodville Lions Club are doing in grassroots New Zealand."

And tomorrow at 6.30pm at Wellington's Backbencher GastroPub, Sleep Health Foundation New Zealand Trust's representatives will debate US President Donald Trump's assertion that "sleep is for wimps".

"A slew of tweets claiming an almost God-like ability to exist successfully with few hours (or almost no) sleep at all clearly sets the USA's 45th President galaxies apart from us mere mortals," Hull said.

"But, is he getting enough?

"Wearing pyjamas and having a laugh is optional at the debate, but behind the scenes please know that the impact of not getting cumulative good nights' sleep is reducing our workforce productivity, increasing mental health issues and having an impact on the health, safety and well-being of our nation."


Better sleep, safer lives:
* There are potentially more than 2500 chronic obstructive sleep apnoea (Cosa) afflicted operators of heavy truck and trailer rigs on our roads, with thousands more in smaller, lighter vehicles.
* The New Zealand Police Traffic Safety Division says accident-injury cost to the taxpayer is $600,000 plus and $3,500,000 plus if the accident is fatal.
* The estimated cost of sleep-attributed traffic and workplace accidents to our economy will exceed $2 billion this year.
* Independent research shows injury accidents on Auckland roads could be reduced by 19 per cent if people avoided driving when they felt sleepy, or with less than five hours sleep in the prior 24 hours, or between 2am and 5am when sleepiness is strongest for most people.
* There are probably more than 400,000 New Zealanders whose lives are significantly harmed by diagnosable sleep disorders. Of these, more than half are afflicted with a potentially terminal condition, Cosa.