• Greg Morgan

Are We Getting Enough Sleep

Sleep is an essential part of life that affects every aspect of our health and well-being. Good quality sleep supplies waking energy, supports workplace performance, and promotes good health outcomes throughout life. Despite the importance of sleep, however, a significant percentage of the population don't get enough of it. Let's take a look at modern sleeping habits, including the effects of technology and caffeine. Good sleep is the key to good health, and awareness is essential in order to make positive changes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults should get at least 7 hours of sleep each night. This minimum recommendation is shared by healthcare bodies in Australia and New Zealand, with the majority of people reaching this basic threshold. According to The Australia Talks National Survey 2021, however, there is a lot of room for improvement, with roughly one-third of the national population not getting enough sleep on a regular basis.

According to the survey, 40% of people get 7 hours sleep each night, 25% get 6 hours, 22% get 8 hours, 7% get 5 hours, 4% get 9 hours or more, and 2% get just 4 hours. This roughly corresponds to CDC figures and other studies from around the world, with only two-thirds of the population getting enough sleep. While sleeping habits have improved in some countries since the pandemic, mostly due to changes in work behaviours, average sleeping hours in Australia have remained consistent compared to 2019.

According to Chris Seton, a sleep physician at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, "In pretty much every country surveyed, people had more sleep," during the pandemic due to the work-from-home effect: "In most countries, the average adult slept 45 minutes more through COVID than in previous times." There is evidence of reduced sleep quality over this time due to COVID anxiety, however, with poor sleep recognised by difficulty getting to sleep, early unwanted rising, and waking during the night.

Limited sleeping hours and poor sleeping habits have been linked to numerous causes, including longer working hours, mental health issues, and the use of technology devices. According to a 2018 study by Victoria Health, more than one-third of young people were losing sleep due to mobile phone use late at night, and 93% of high school students were not getting enough sleep. According to Professor Hillman from the Australian Sleep Health Foundation, this is due to unnatural light frequencies and levels, and exposure to stimulating digital content.

Coffee and other caffeine-based products are often consumed by people as a substitute for poor sleep. While they can have a positive effect in certain situations, caffeine is no substitute for a good night’s rest. According to Kimberly Fenn in a study from the Journal of Experimental Psychology, “Caffeine may be able to help you stay awake and pay attention to a task, but it does not help to prevent errors... During deep sleep, the tissues in your body are repaired... neural connections are formed and your memories are consolidated. Coffee or energy drinks can never replace what happens during good sleep.”

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