Research — 09 July 2015

CHRONIC lack of sleep can be as debilitating as a serious illness and result in conditions as severe as depression, headaches and weight gain.

In fact, a New York DJ who set a world record by staying awake 201 hours, began laughing at nothing after three days and ultimately suffered hallucinations, paranoia and hysteria.

A third of all Australians don’t get enough sleep and while their symptoms are usually nowhere near as severe, their lives suffer.

It’s a problem which has plagued Coolum man Travis Bailey, who said it took him two months to recover from his latest fly-in fly-out shutdown job that saw him work stints of 13 days straight.

“You go to sleep at normal times but you wake up at three in the morning wide awake and don’t get back to sleep until eight,” he said.

“Your temper rises a lot easier, you get frustrated and it makes it hard to operate.”untitledq

Mr Bailey said the sleep deprivation also put strain on his relationship with his partner. “It made communication with her a lot harder.”

He said he was lucky that weight gain wasn’t as big a problem as it could have been.

“I was lucky because my metabolism is through the roof but I saw a lot of other guys putting on a lot of weight.

“The only places that are open at four in the morning are fast food joints and at that time you can’t be stuffed getting anything else.”

If your brain was a computer gathering nasty viruses and malware throughout the day, then sleep is the defragmenting tool that unclutters your mind.

Prof Roger Allen, an expert in sleep-related conditions such as sarcoidosis, said sleep was an essential component of wellbeing but the current social climate disregarded its importance.

“We live in a neoliberal neo-capitalist society where people don’t matter,” he said.

“Because we live by the dollar, people have become more dispensable.

“Sleep is like pulling the chain and flushing everything out.

“Missing the recommended average eight-hour sleep for an adult every night leads to moodiness, irritability, loss of sexual function and loss of attention span.

“Your cognitive function goes down the gurgler.”

Prof David Hillman, chair of the Sleep Health Foundation, said sleep played a vital role in our health and sense of wellbeing.

“Regularly getting sufficient, quality sleep will have a big impact on our moods, concentration, immunity, memory and will ultimately result in a stronger performance at work, sport and study,” he said.

“On average, adults require eight hours each night, teenagers nine hours and primary school children need 10 hours.”


  • Establish a sleep routine and stick to it.
  • Practise a relaxing bedtime ritual – a calming routine activity right before bedtime can help to separate sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety.
  • Literally switch off and remove distracting devices in the bedroom such as the television, computer and phone.
  • Create a calming sleeping environment in your bedroom.
  • Comfort is key – make sure you’re happy with your mattress, bedding and pillows.

This article first appeared on ‘Sunshine Coast Daily’ on 9 July 2015.


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