Australia needs to prioritise sleep to improve health and productivity of the nation, according to Neuroscience Research Australia’s (NeuRA) recent submission to the Federal Government’s Inquiry into Sleep Health Awareness in Australia.
Four out of 10 Australians do not get enough sleep and without adequate, restorative sleep, the human body cannot function optimally, according to Professor Danny Eckert, Director of the Sleep Program at NeuRA.
Professor Eckert is calling for a $200 million strategic investment into sleep health over the next five to 10 years to be funded by the Medical Research Futures Fund.
The professor and his team at NeuRA are dedicated to helping the over seven million Australians and their families who are impacted by the adverse consequences of inadequate sleep.
The health, safety and economic consequences of inadequate sleep in Australia were estimated to be in excess of $66 billion last year alone, according to a Deloitte Economics report commissioned by the Sleep Health Foundation.
Inadequate sleep can be caused by sleep disorders including sleep apnoea and insomnia, medical conditions that disrupt sleep like back pain or routinely not getting enough sleep due to lifestyle or life challenges. This leads to sleep deprivation and can result in daytime sleepiness and impaired alertness.
Inadequate sleep is associated with obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, impaired brain function, neurodegenerative disease including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, mental illness, diabetes, impaired immune function and more.
“Australia is recognised internationally for its expertise in sleep research and clinical sleep medicine,” says Professor Eckert.
“We know that optimal sleep health requires the skills of a range of disciplines including sleep physicians, nurses, dentists, surgeons, psychologists, neurologists, pharmacists; however, due to the high burden of disease, limited treatment options and lack of sleep health services available in the current health care system, wait times to see a sleep health professional can be more than a year, limiting Australians’ access to high quality sleep services.”
Professor Eckert’s submission to the Inquiry into Sleep Health Awareness in Australia suggests the Australian Government focus on innovative strategies and comprehensive services to improve sleep through a multidisciplinary systems approach.
“Improving sleep health will both improve the health and wellbeing of the nation and be economically advantageous,” says Professor Eckert.
Professor Eckert’s submission to the Inquiry into Sleep Health Awareness in Australia sets out six key areas where government funding is urgently needed:
1. The identification of novel therapeutic targets and development of much-needed targeted therapies for sleep disorders. This includes basic and applied cross-disciplinary approaches to determine the underlying causes of sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea and insomnia.
2. Targeted sleep research in understudied and underrepresented populations including sleep health in Indigenous Australians, women, children and the elderly.
3. Translational research studies that involve combination therapies to provide treatment options for the thousands of Australians who do not respond to first-line therapies, including comparative effectiveness research and clinical trials.
4. Development and implementation of novel sleep awareness programs for school children and training and education programs for health care professionals including GPs.
5. Sleep-specific research fellowships for early and mid-career scientists and clinicians to create career pathways during these vulnerable career stages to expand the sleep research workforce in Australia.
6. Development of new approaches to clinical care and health care delivery models for sleep problems including the integration of research scientists into major public hospitals and cross-disciplinary clinical research environments to rapidly integrate research discoveries to the clinic. Cross-disciplinary research to understand bidirectional links between inadequate sleep and other medical conditions including mental health disorders, pain and neurodegeneration.