A national sleep study has found Australia is in the grip of a sleep deprivation epidemic and we’re not just feeling tired. According to the research, the situation is so bad it’s dragging down the nation’s productivity, risking safety and damaging mental health.

The study by the Sleep Health Foundation shows 33 to 45 per cent of adults sleep either poorly or not long enough most nights, leaving them to face the new day with fatigue, irritability and other side effects.

The most common sleep problems included:

  •  Being unable to fall asleep easily
  •  Waking up too early
  •  Feeling tired, unrefreshed, sleepy, fatigued, exhausted, irritable and moody
  •  Sleep disorders like insomnia and sleep apnoea.

‘National strategy’ needed to stop bedtime browsing


It’s a habit for many of us to grab our phones and check messages or flick mindlessly through social media sites when we get in bed. The Sleep Foundation believes Australia needs a national strategy to break it.

The study revealed “alarmingly high” rates of internet use just before bed.

“44 per cent of adults are on the internet just before bed almost every night and 59 per cent of these late night workers, web surfers, movie watchers or online gamers have more than two sleep problems,” Sleep Foundation director Doctor David Hillman said in a statement.

“This is no coincidence. This habit is having a direct and very negative impact on sleep and without a cohesive national strategy to combat it, this won’t change,” he said.

Want to know more about why bedtime browsing is bad? Take a look at this article House Call Doctor wrote on digital detoxing.

Fatigue driving us off the road

One in five people also admitted they’d nodded off while driving in the last year. A third said they’d fallen asleep driving within the past month.

“These worrying results just go to show that sleep is not the national health priority it needs to be,” Dr Hillman said.

“Just like obesity, smoking, drinking too much and not exercising enough, sleep problems cause real harm in our community.”

Not enough importance placed on sleep

Dr Hillman says there is a false belief shared by a lot of us. This is that sleep is a waste of time and that we can get away with less than we really need.

“The truth is people who cut corners with their sleep function below their best. They’re not as mentally sharp, as vigilant, as attentive or as patient as they would otherwise be,” Dr Hillman said.

“The result is a less productive, less safe and less pleasant work and family environment. Accident risk goes up, workplace performance goes down and your mood, your heart and your blood pressure can all be affected.

“We need a fundamental change in the way sleep is viewed by everyone from teenagers, parents and teachers through to bosses, doctors and our top politicians.”

Where to get help?

Take a look at these House Call Doctor blog posts for tips on how to have a more restful night:

These websites also have useful information:

If you’re always feeling tired or need advice or support to sleep better you can start by talking to your GP. If it’s after-hours and you can’t see your regular doctor you can book an appointment with House Call Doctor online, via our free mobile app or by calling 13 55 66.