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A report released by the Sleep Health Foundation estimates around one in ten Australians have a sleep disorder that can substantially affect their well-being, safety and productivity.

Apart from the personal distress which sleep disorders cause, the ‘Rise and Try to Shine’ report also shows they have a large economic downside.

In the last financial year (2019-20) their estimated overall cost was over $14 billion in financial costs, with a further $36 billion plus in non-financial costs related to lack of well-being.

The financial component is equivalent to three quarters of a percent of Australian gross domestic product, while the non-financial cost represents over three percent of the total Australian burden of disease for the year.

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Costs of many kinds

The financial costs are dominated by productivity losses of $11 billion and costs associated with increased accident risk. These costs were distributed across the three major sleep disorders – obstructive sleep apnoea, insomnia and restless legs syndrome.

Natasha Doherty, who leads the Deloitte Access Economics Health and Social Policy team which developed the report, said ‘What is striking about the results of this analysis is the relatively small amount spent on identifying and treating sleep disorders compared to the large costs of living with their consequences.’

The report provides further support for interventions to prevent and treat these problems which, alongside poor sleep from work and lifestyle pressures, are an important element of the inadequate sleep crisis affecting Australians.

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Government yet to act

The sleep crisis was the subject of the report of the National Parliamentary Inquiry into Sleep Health Awareness that was tabled in parliament in April 2019.

It contained eleven recommendations, the first of which was that the ‘Australian Government prioritise sleep health as a national priority and recognise its importance to health and wellbeing alongside fitness and nutrition’.

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Key findings

  • In the last financial year (2019-20) poor sleep cost the Australian economy $14.4 billion.
  • This equates to 0.73% of Australian GDP.
  • Less than 7% of these costs are for sleep disorder treatments.
  • Non-financial costs of the loss of wellbeing totalled an additional $36.6 billion.
  • This represents 3.2% of total Australian burden of disease for the year.