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I have a long-standing interest in sleep and have posted on it before. I was pleased recently to find the website of the Australian Sleep Association. The ASA is a group of medical practitioners and researchers concerned with sleep problems. As an economist I am interested in the 2004 study by Access Economics, ‘Wake Up Australia, The Value of Healthy Sleep’ which is posted here. I was also interested in the Fatigue and Transportation report there. Fatigue is an occupational health and safety issue, a major cause of traffic accidents and fatalities and a major health problem.

The Australian provided a good overview of the issues and provided some summary statistics on the cost of sleep disorders to the Australian economy from the Access Economics report:

  • Sleep disorders cost the Australian economy $10.3 billion.
  • 1.2 million Australians suffer from sleep disorders.
  • 10% of work accidents are attributable to sleep disorders.
  • 7.6% of non-work vehicle work accidents are attributable to sleep disorders.
  • Cost of treating sleep disorders is $2.7 billion.
  • Cost of treating sleep-related depression $100 million.
  • Cost of lost production from sleep-related absenteeism and low productivity $79 million.
  • Lost earnings from job losses due to sleep disorders $1.57 billion.
  • Annual cost of sleep disorders per capita $310.
  • Annual cost of sleep disorders a sufferer, $5175.

We are also acting as if we are a nation of tired people with rapidly growing sales of caffeine and guarana-enriched soft drinks as well as use of more harmful stimulant drugs such as ice.

What is interesting are the connections between untreated sleep apnoea, obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease. For example, there is clear evidence that among young people sleep deprivation increases insulin resistance, the condition that leads to Type 2 diabetes. Among infants there are developmental problems associated with poor sleep. The major risk factor for apnoea is definitely obesity. About 2 out of 3 people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke. And about 2 out of 3 people with diabetes have high blood pressure.

Diabetes has reached pandemic proportions in Australia as have obesity and sleep problems. They combine to be potent killers through their effects in driving heart disease and stroke. The message seems to be try not to be obese by watching your energy intake and doing sufficient exercise. And try to get a good night’s sleep. If you don’t sleep well visit your doctor and find out what is happening.

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