A new survey by Sydney sleep specialists has revealed that almost one in five Australians don't get adequate sleep, and that older people are the most likely to experience chronic daytime sleepiness.
According to the study, 18 per cent of adults sleep less than 6.5 hours a night and 12 per cent suffer from extreme and persistent sleepiness during the day.
Looking at the findings of the survey, researchers at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research have warned that this level of chronic sleep restriction is likely to be having a 'significant influence on public health in Australia'.
To collate the nation's first detailed population-based description of the typical sleep behaviour, sleep satisfaction and sleepiness of Australians, more than 3300 NSW residents were interviewed for the survey.
The findings revealed that adults slept an average of 7.25 hours a night on weekdays, increasing to 7.5 hours a night at the weekend.
The rate of sleep was also dependent on age, with younger people getting the most sleep while older people, with symptoms of depression most likely to experience chronic daytime sleepiness.
Lead author, Dr Delwyn Bartlett, sleep psychologist, said that short sleep, either self-imposed or forced, was being increasingly recognised as a factor responsible for poor health and death.
"It can impact on everything from cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, insulin sensitivity, appetite, immune responses to vaccinations and concentration levels for even the simplest tasks,'' News.com.au quoted Dr Bartlett, as saying.
"If the NSW figures are reflective of the nation as a whole, chronic sleep restriction is likely to have a major impact on Australian public health,'' Dr Bartlett added.
According to the researchers, the results also indicated a large proportion of people seemed to increase their sleep duration at the weekends, 'paying off' the level of sleep-debt that seemed to be accruing during the week.
"The long-term health effects of this practice are unknown. But if you can't achieve a catch-up sleep on the weekend, there is the increased risk of burnout, which has negative social and work-related outcomes,'' Dr Bartlett said.
The study is published in the Internal Medicine Journal.