July 3 – 9 is Sleep Awareness Week, an initiative of the Sleep Health Foundation, working with Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) to reduce the burden of impaired alertness on the safety, productivity and health of all Australians.

Sleep is a fundamental biological requirement for human health. Side effects of sleep deprivation are affecting Australia’s productivity, risking safety and damaging mental health.

Research by the Sleep Health Foundation has found 33 – 45% of adults either have poor or insufficient sleep most nights, leaving them to face the new day with fatigue, irritability, and alertness impairment.

Sleep deprivation appears to have links to a number of health problems such as hypertension, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and obesity. Short sleep also affects the immune system, increasing the risk of infections.

Sleep problems can cause people to fall asleep on the job, to make errors, and to experience reduced productivity. Sleep deprivation also has a major effect on the risk on our roads, with 20% of adults admitting to having nodded off while driving, and 5% having an accident because of dozing off.

The digital age and technology may be responsible for some of our sleep problems. About a quarter of all adults use the internet almost every night, and have frequent sleep difficulties and daytime impairments. The 16% of working adults who do work just before bed are similarly affected.

Shift workers appear to have the highest incidence of poor sleep due to circadian rhythm misalignment. Given their impairment in alertness and cognitive function, it is not surprising shift workers are at higher risk of accidents and near-miss events.

What can be done to stem the tide of the sleepiness epidemic that is plaguing our nation?

The first step is recognition of sleep disorders, which the Medical Journal of Australia calls ‘an under-recognised individual and community problem’ with implications for the public health system.

Strategies under consideration for shift workers include taking stimulants such as caffeine in controlled doses, and scheduling naps during shifts, although optimum nap duration has not yet been established.

For poor sleepers whose condition is not attributable to a specific sleep disorder, developing better sleep habits and choices could be the key to improvement. Good sleep habits include: 

  • Limiting the use of technology in the bedroom, especially in the hour before the desired sleep time
  • Establishing regular sleep patterns, i.e. getting up and going to bed at the same time each day
  •  Avoiding caffeine and energy dense foods before desired sleep time
  • Avoiding prolonged aerobic or heavy exercise too close to desired sleep time
  • Making sure the room is as quiet and dark as possible
  • Seeking treatment for depression and anxiety.

Poor sleep in children can affect their learning outcomes in school, so it is important for those in parental roles to establish good sleep habits for the children too, especially establishing a consistent bedtime routine.

However, despite the magical figure of eight hours being promoted as the optimal time required for sleeping, different people need different amounts of sleep. The amount of activity undertaken during the day can also affect the amount of sleep required. Babies and children need more sleep than adults, but the amount of sleep we need has generally stabilised by the time we reach 20 years old.

Australia’s increasing rates of sleep deprivation can make more work for first aiders in the workplace. A moment’s inattention can result in an accident that requires a first aid response.

Allens Training Sunshine Coast regularly runs Provide First Aid courses that equip your first aiders with the practical skills and knowledge to deal with such emergencies.

If you are a business on the Sunshine Coast from Noosa to Nambour, or surrounding areas from Gympie to Glass House Mountains, visit our group bookings web page where you can take the first steps in arranging a group booking for your staff: enter your details and request a quote. Alternatively, you can email sunshinecoast@allenstraining.com.au, or phone 07 5438 8888 to discuss your group training needs with our Client Services Coordinator.

You will find our group pricing is excellent value for money, and for the months of June and July, we are offering any group booking on the Sunshine Coast a FREE first aid kit.


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