In Australia, Women Report Poorer Sleep, Especially if Less Educated, Middle-Aged, Single

November 15, 2019

In Australia, adults who are female, single, middle-aged, and have lower levels of education are more likely to experience less-than-optimal sleep, according to a recent study.

In Australia, adults who are female, single, middle-aged, and have lower levels of education are more likely to experience less-than-optimal sleep, according to a recent study.

The issue of sleep duration and quality is getting more attention of late, as it has been linked to a risk factor for health conditions such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, stroke, and depression.

This particular study reported on sleep and demographics in a large sample of Australian adults. Researchers defined suboptimal sleep according to the parameters of the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), which have been adopted by the Australasian Sleep Association. For adults aged 26 to 64, sleep of less than 6 hours or greater than 10 hours is not recommended; inappropriate sleep quality includes taking more than 45 minutes to fall asleep, waking up more than 3 times during the night for more than 5 minutes, and other factors, including daytime naps.

Researchers used data taken from an Australian cross-sectional telephone survey, the National Social Survey (NSS). Random telephone surveys were conducted between July 17 and August 23, 2017.

Answers from 1265 adults were analyzed in descriptive statistics that summarized the prevalence of suboptimal sleep; Chi-square and multivariable logistic regression explored links between suboptimal sleep, demographics, and receipt of or interest in “sleep care.”

About 42% of the participants had suboptimal sleep; 19% met 1 parameter, while 13% met 2 and 11% met 3 or more.

The highest prevalence of suboptimal sleep was seen on measures of sleep duration, at 20% to 23%

Only 16% reported their sleep had been assessed, and 10% received at least 1 component of care for suboptimal sleep, typically prescription drug therapy (43%). Other sleep aids included continuous positive airway pressure machines or nasal strips; some participants used over-the-counter sleep medications without prescription or recommendation from a clinician.

A majority of the participants, at 67%, had no desire to seek treatment for their sleep issues.

The study had several limitations. The validity of the NSF criteria has not been formally evaluated, the authors noted. In addition, the data were self-reported, which may have impacted the findings; previous studies have suggested that people with a history of sleep problems are likely to overestimate sleep disruptions and underestimate the total time they slept.

Additionally, data for factors known to impact sleep, such as worksite and schedule demands, were not collected and so were not considered in the analysis.

“To reduce the associated health and financial burden, a coordinated population health strategy to improve the sleep health of Australians may be warranted,” the researchers concluded.

Reference

Metse AP, Bowman JA. Prevalence of self-reported suboptimal sleep in Australia and receipt of sleep care: Results from the 2017 national social survey [published online November 9, 2019]. Sleep Health. doi: 10.1016/j.sleh.2019.08.010.