Public health implications of sleep loss: the community burden

Med J Aust. 2013 Oct 21;199(8):S7-10. doi: 10.5694/mja13.10620.


Poor sleep imparts a significant personal and societal burden. Therefore, it is important to have accurate estimates of its causes, prevalence and costs to inform health policy. A recent evaluation of the sleep habits of Australians demonstrates that frequent (daily or near daily) sleep difficulties (initiating and maintaining sleep, and experiencing inadequate sleep), daytime fatigue, sleepiness and irritability are highly prevalent (20%-35%). These difficulties are generally more prevalent among females, with the exception of snoring and related difficulties. While about half of these problems are likely to be attributable to specific sleep disorders, the balance appears attributable to poor sleep habits or choices to limit sleep opportunity. Study of the economic impact of sleep disorders demonstrates financial costs to Australia of $5.1 billion per year. This comprises $270 million for health care costs for the conditions themselves, $540 million for care of associated medical conditions attributable to sleep disorders, and about $4.3 billion largely attributable to associated productivity losses and non-medical costs resulting from sleep loss-related accidents. Loss of life quality added a substantial further non-financial cost. While large, these costs were for sleep disorders alone. Additional costs relating to inadequate sleep from poor sleep habits in people without sleep disorders were not considered. Based on the high prevalence of such problems and the known impacts of sleep loss in all its forms on health, productivity and safety, it is likely that these poor sleep habits would add substantially to the costs from sleep disorders alone.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents / economics
  • Accidents / statistics & numerical data
  • Activities of Daily Living / psychology
  • Adult
  • Australia
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Efficiency
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Policy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / economics
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / epidemiology
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / prevention & control
  • Sleep Deprivation / economics
  • Sleep Deprivation / epidemiology*
  • Sleep Deprivation / prevention & control*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / economics
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / epidemiology
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / prevention & control
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / economics
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / prevention & control*