Sleep is as important to the human body as food and water, but most of us don’t get enough. Lack of it has a detrimental effect on our physical and mental health. It is estimated that over a million people suffer from sleep disorders of some kind, but less than 1% are properly diagnosed. This represents a significant public health issue, since sleep disorders contribute to a variety of other health and social problems, ranging from serious co-morbidities to increased workplace and traffic accidents. Health and economic costs associated with sleep disorders are estimated to be somewhere between $3 to $7 billion per year, approximately $40 million of which is spent on sleep medications.
The nature and magnitude of sleep disorders in the community suggest the need for greater awareness on the part of GPs and other health practitioners. They are in a good position to be alert to the possibilities of sleep disorder underlying other presenting problems, to educate patients on the importance of quality sleep and available treatments, and to offer targeted ‘sleep health’ promotion programs.
The program provides information on the latest research in sleep medicine; it discusses the range of sleep disorders, and the importance of early detection and diagnosis; it outlines the latest treatment options, including the appropriate use of medication, and discusses some simple screening mechanisms that can benefit practitioners and patients in rural areas. It draws attention to the medical, behavioural and social consequences of sleep disturbance, and considers strategies designed both to increase awareness of sleep disorders in the general community and to promote good sleep health. The program is of interest to GPs, psychiatrists, nurses, pharmacists, psychologists and other allied health practitioners.
Produced by the Rural Health Education Foundation