4 out of 10 Australians are sleep deprived

People nap on a bed at an Ikea store in Hangzhou, China. STR/AFP/Getty Images

Inadequate sleep is a major health and safety hazard that costs Australia $66 billion a year and contributes to the death of many, the latest research has found.

A study by Deloitte Access Economics estimates more than one Australian will die every day, or 394 a year, from falling asleep at the wheel of a vehicle or from industrial accidents due to lack of sleep.

“Police departments should devote as much attention to tired and fatigued drivers as they do to speeding and inebriated ones,” says the report commissioned by the Sleep Health Foundation.

“Just as there are rules forbidding driving at more than a certain speed or after consuming an excessive amount of alcohol, there may be a case for restrictions on driving where the driver has had less than a set minimum hours of sleep in the past 24 hours.”

Most adults require 7 to 8 hours sleep a night. The Sleep Health Foundation calculates that four in ten Australians routinely fail to get the sleep they need.

Professor David Hillman says most drivers don’t understand that getting behind the wheel of a car when sleep deprived can be just as dangerous as driving drunk or drug affected.

Australian research shows drivers who have had 17 hours of sleep deprivation perform the same in the driver’s seat as someone with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05%.

“For too many people, driving tired is a dangerously normal part of everyday life,” Professor Hillman says. “This behaviour is causing crashes and costing lives. It’s time we treated sleep deprivation like alcohol and regulated against it.”

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