Shortage of snooze nothing to sneeze at

Shortage of snooze nothing to sneeze at

Taking work home with you can affect sleep and also your productivity




  • 11:00PM November 8, 2018

Maybe it’s the kids waking early. Or the curlews crying out through the night. Or the mozzies or the dogs or the developers or the hoons or the tricky bladder or the leaf blower or the ill-fitting pyjamas or the chainsaw snorers. Whatever or whoever the culprit, try to maintain a restful and relaxing environment to give yourself the best chance of sleeping through the night.

According to the Sleep Health Foundation, children aged three to five should be getting 10 to 13 hours of sleep every night, dropping back to nine to 10 hours between the ages of six and 13. By adulthood, we should be getting seven to nine hours’ sleep, perhaps slightly less for those over 65. But quality is as important as quantity, and people need to take sleep seriously.

Taking work home with you can affect sleep and your productivity, according to a new study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Researchers from the University of South Australia, The Netherlands and Japan studied 230 healthcare workers across two years to determine the impact of after-hours work-related activities.

While reading, watching television or listening to music can help people prepare for sleep, work can have the opposite effect — unless it is housework, cooking or looking after children.

“These latter activities are both resource-depleting and enhancing, helping to both disengage from the job and get a better night’s sleep,” says one of the study’s authors, Jan de Jonge from UniSA.

Maureen Dollard, from UniSA’s Asia Pacific Centre for Work Health and Safety says, work should be kept at work.

“Managers need to create a climate in which working beyond regular hours is not ‘business as usual’, as taking work home impedes cognitive function and productivity,” Dollard says.

A Senate committee is holding an inquiry into sleep health awareness in Australia following a referral from federal Health Minister Greg Hunt.

The inquiry, which has received 113 submissions and will take further testimony in public hearings, will look at causes, education, treatment options and research.

Researchers from the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre have told the inquiry there should be a national sleep strategy with more funding for research and a better-resourced workforce to be able to act on problems sooner.

With evidence of a link between sleep disturbance and cognitive decline and depression, they argue such a strategy is crucial “to optimise healthy ageing and potentially avert the tsunami of dementia approaching, the cost of which is projected to increase to $1 trillion in the next 40 years”.

The Sleep Health Foundation has warned the inquiry that the problem is growing and younger adults are disproportionately affected.

“While some of the difficulty can be explained by clinical sleep disorders and other health issues, much appears to be due to work pressures or lifestyle choices that restrict sleep to create more time for work, family, social and leisure pursuits, including social media,” its submission says.

“The consequences are far-reaching and expensive: sleep-restricted individuals have impaired alertness, think less quickly and accurately, and are less vigilant, more irritable and prone to depressed mood than when sufficiently rested.

“Over time, health and longevity suffer: virtually every aspect of our physiology is impacted by inadequate sleep, including psychological, cardiovascular and immune functions. Apart from the health and social impacts of sleep loss, productivity, road safety, absenteeism and errors at work are impacted.”

The increased focus on sleep has brought on an increase in people trying to help but also has left authorities wary of charlatans.

A Medicare review previously has raised concerns about the use of sleep tests of questionable clinical value, sometimes leading to patients being sold expensive continuous positive airway pressure machines, which may not be the best treatment options.

Last financial year, a consultant sleep and respiratory physician agreed to repay $2 million in Medicare rebates after questions about inappropriate practice, while another physician agreed to repay $730,000. In January, the Department of Health wrote to 79 physicians with particularly high rates of billing and by the end of September, 28 of them had acknowledged incorrect Medicare claims totalling more than $477,000.

Do your homework, find a doctor you trust and get a second opinion if you need to. If you’re promised an expensive cure, maybe sleep on it first. If you can.

Sean Parnell

Health Editor

Sean Parnell is Health Editor and FOI Editor at The Australian and was a political reporter for 10 years. Sean is a member of the Open Government Partnership Media Council, has been interviewed for various TV a… Read more