Inadequate sleep kills more than 3000 people and costs Australia $66 billion each year, a Sleep Health Foundation report says.
The report found more than one Australian dies every day — 394 a year — from falling asleep at the wheel while driving or from industrial accidents involving sleepy workers.
Heart disease and diabetes were the reasons behind the remaining deaths.
The financial costs of sleep deprivation was estimated to be $66.3 billion in the 2016/17 financial year. Just under half of that was linked to productivity losses as well as medical and informal care expenses.
Four out of 10 Australians — 7.4 million people — did not get enough sleep last year, putting their health and wellbeing in turmoil, according to the 2017 study of 1011 people.
“This lack of sleep had harmful effects on everyday function, and exacerbated health conditions from heart disease and stroke through to diabetes and depression,” said Professor Dorothy Bruck, chairwoman of the Sleep Health Foundation.
“No wonder sleep deprivation is such a highly effective form of torture.”
The foundation said driving while tired should be criminalised.
“Police departments should devote as much attention to tired and fatigued drivers as they do to speeding and inebriated ones,” the report said.
“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.”
Australian research shows drivers with 17 hours of sleep deprivation perform the same in the driver’s seat as someone with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05 per cent.
A test could be developed in the future allowing police to check fatigue levels in drivers.
The Sleep Health Foundation’s Professor David Hillman said for too many people, driving tired was a normal part of everyday life.
“When you consider that one in every five car accidents is related to fatigue that is a lot of harm caused by people not getting the sleep they need,” he said in a statement.
“It’s time we treated sleep deprivation like alcohol and regulated against it.”
The report was compiled by Deloitte Access Economics.