Damaging Sleep Problems Going Untreated

Insomnia and severe snoring problems are widespread in Australia and New Zealand but just one in every three sufferers seek the help they need, sleep experts warn.

Health specialists are using Sleep Awareness Week starting July 4 to highlight concerns that too many people in are living with undiagnosed and untreated sleep disorders that steal their health and happiness.

“It’s a sad fact that more than 1/3rd of adults have sleeping problems, but it’s even more concerning that most of them are suffering through their bad sleep and waking unrefreshed without realising help is at hand,” says Professor Alister Neill President of the New Zealand Branch of the Australasian Sleep Association and spokesman for Sleep Health Foundation.

“This poor sleep is adversely affecting their health, their mood, their relationships, their diet, their driving, their motivation to exercise and their ability to do their job safely and effectively. Just about every aspect of life suffers.”

Studies show sleep problems like disrupted sleep, inadequate sleep duration, daytime fatigue, excessive sleepiness and irritability are experienced by 25-35 per cent of all adults on a daily or several times a week basis. About half of these problems can be attributed to specific treatable sleep disorders, particularly insomnia and the snoring condition obstructive sleep apnea. The remainder are largely due to poor sleep habits or choices to sleep less.

In Australia, specific sleep disorders cost the economy $5.1 billion a year, including $800 million in direct health care costs. Poor sleep because of poor sleep habits or choices adds to this cost. The Sleep Health Foundation says sleep problems constitute a global epidemic that threatens health and quality of life for up around one third per cent of the world’s population.

The Sleep Health Foundation is using Sleep Awareness Week to educate people on the true value of a good night’s sleep. “Sound sleep is a critical function of good health along with a balanced diet and adequate exercise,” Dr Neill says. “If you’re not getting it then your health and happiness will be bearing the brunt.”

The Sleep Health Foundation says it can be helpful for people to realise there are three crucial elements to good sleep - duration, continuity and depth.

“Your sleep needs to be uninterrupted, long enough to feel rested and alert the next day and deep enough to be restorative and refreshing,” explains Professor Neill from the Sleep Health Foundation.

He has some simple advice for those looking to improve their sleep. “Use Sleep Awareness Week to think about your sleep and consider what effect environmental conditions like temperature, noise, light, bed comfort, and electronic devices could be having on your shut eye,” Professor Neill says. “It might be that you can make one or two small changes that dramatically improve your sleep and how you feel the next day.”

He also advises people to keep regular sleep hours, avoid sleeping in and take care not to nap too late or too long.

This year’s Sleep Awareness Week warns noisy sleepers: ‘Don’t ignore the heavy snore’ ‘Kaua e wareware i te ngongoro taimaha'. A gasping snore in particular could be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea, a night-time breathing condition that affects energy levels, mood and general health.

Talk to your GP about your sleep troubles because it may be that you need to be referred to a sleep specialist, the foundation says. “Just remember if you are diagnosed with a sleep disorder, stay positive,” Professor Neill says. “There are effective treatments for snoring, obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness that can get you back to better health in no time.”

The week-long campaign includes an online sleep apnea quiz which can be completed by visiting: http://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/public-information/more/osa-quiz.html. Join the social media campaign with hashtags #dontignorethegaspingsnore, #gaspingsnore #seeyourGPnow and #sleepawarenessweek.

For further information, contact Lucy Williams on mobile: +61 403 753 028.

Sleep Tips
• Keep regular sleep hours. Try to go to bed at about the same time every night and get out of bed about the same time every morning. An alarm clock can help with this.
• Avoid sleeping in, even if you have had a poor night's sleep and still feel tired. If you happen to wake early, think about getting out of bed and starting your day. Regular sleep habits strengthen the internal body clock’s sleep-wake rhythm.
• Take care with naps. An afternoon nap may interfere with sleeping at night. This is often a problem if the nap is late in the afternoon or lasts longer than 15-20 minutes. The best approach is to experiment to find what works best. It is important to take into account that sleep needs and sleep patterns change with age and different circumstances.
• Talk to your doctor about your sleep problems and try to work out the cause of your difficulties. You may require referral to a sleep specialist.