Sleep: a core pillar of health & wellbeing

A new report from the Mitchell Institute and Sleep Health Foundation of Australia outlines the importance of sleep as a pillar of good health.
Tuesday 14 November 2023

In the pursuit of health and wellness, sleep often gets relegated to the sidelines, overshadowed by the more visible aspects of nutrition and physical activity. Yet, sleep is an indispensable pillar of well-being, a fundamental building block for achieving and maintaining optimal health.

Modern life, with its relentless 24/7 connectivity and the encroachment of nighttime work and social activities, has taken a toll on our sleep habits. This disruption, coupled with the pervasiveness of electronic devices, has thrown our natural sleep-wake cycle off balance, leading to widespread sleep deprivation.

Sleep is not merely a period of rest; it is a complex biological process that profoundly impacts our entire body. During sleep, our bodies engage in a restorative symphony, repairing and maintaining our cardiovascular health, immune system, metabolism, and brain development.

Sleep health encompasses three key dimensions: sleep quantity, sleep quality, and sleep consistency. When any of these aspects are compromised, our sleep health suffers, increasing our vulnerability to a range of health and well-being issues.

The spectrum of sleep health extends from a healthy slumber to clinical sleep disorders, which are medically diagnosed conditions that regularly disrupt sleep. These disorders are a prevalent health concern for Australians of all ages, placing a significant burden on our healthcare system.

The consequences of poor sleep extend far beyond daytime grogginess. Sleep deprivation can negatively impact our mood, mental health, cognitive function, concentration, and productivity. It is also a significant risk factor for accidents and injuries, including motor vehicle accidents.

The economic costs of poor sleep are staggering, amounting to billions of dollars annually in lost productivity and healthcare expenses. This underscores the urgent need for a national strategy to address sleep health.

Population health and policy approaches to better sleep

Current sleep health initiatives primarily focus on sleep disorders and specific occupational health and safety risks. However, given the universal importance of sleep and the widespread prevalence of sleep issues, a broader, population-based approach is essential.

This collaboration between the Mitchell Institute, Victoria University and the Sleep Health Foundation of Australia developed the two reports and recommended policy options for improving sleep health in Australia.

This policy evidence review outlines strategies to improve sleep health in Australia, emphasizing the role of public awareness, education, and primary care interventions in preventing and managing sleep problems.

The recommended policy options, endorsed by a panel of leading Australian sleep health experts, aim to foster a sleep-healthy nation, where restorative slumber is recognized as the cornerstone of a thriving society.

Join us in prioritising sleep as a critical pillar of health and well-being. Let's reclaim our nights, embrace restful slumber, and awaken to a healthier, more vibrant future.

Authors: Stella McNamara, Tyler Nichols, Sarah Dash, Maximilian de Courten, Rosemary Calder