The recent publication of the national parliamentary inquiry “Bedtime Reading: Inquiry into Sleep Health Awareness in Australia” posited 11 recommendations to the Australian Government for the improvement of sleep health in Australia.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government prioritise sleep health as a national priority and recognise its importance to health and wellbeing alongside fitness and nutrition.
The Committee recommends Safe Work Australia and the Alertness CRC provide updated guidelines (based on current research and science) for industries using shift work, regarding optimal shift structures and other workplace practices that promote alertness, productivity and ensure worker safety.
The Committee recommends the Australian Government work with the states and territories to:
- Develop a nationally consistent approach to working hours and rest breaks for shift workers; and
- Consider whether there is a need for sleep health screenings for shift workers; and
- That this approach be based on guidelines recommended by Safe Work Australia and the Alertness CRC.
The Committee recommends that the Department of Health undertake a review of the Medicare Benefits Schedule as it relates to sleep health services in Australia. The review should include, but not be limited to, the following:
- Simple diagnostic sleep studies (Level 3 and Level 4) that do not currently attract Medicare rebates;
- Ensuring recent changes to enable general practitioners to directly refer patients to diagnostic sleep studies are effective; and
- Barriers to accessing Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia via telehealth for patients in regional, rural, and remote areas.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government work with the states and territories, and provides funding where necessary, to:
- Ensure that all Pensioner or Health Care Card holders with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnoea, regardless of their location, have access to a free trial of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy and if the trial is successful free ongoing CPAP treatment; and
- Undertake a review to assess the potential benefits of providing subsidised CPAP therapy across the broader Australian community.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission monitor the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure industry to ensure that vertical integration in the industry does not result in actions that:
- Limit the quality of care or clinical advice provided to patients; or
- Result in anti-competitive behaviour in the industry.
The Committee recommends that if there is no distributor willing to put forward a submission, the Australian Government work with patient advocacy groups such as Narcolepsy Australia or the Sleep Health Foundation to make a submission for the listing or registration of Sodium Oxybate under the Orphan Drug Program.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government, in partnership with the states, territories and key stakeholder groups, work to develop and implement a national sleep health awareness campaign. The campaign should:
- Promote sleep as the foundation of ensuring positive health and wellbeing outcomes in combination with nutrition and exercise;
- Provide practical information in relation to sleep hygiene and measures an individual can use to improve their sleep;
- Provide information on the symptoms, causes, and health impacts of sleep disorders and available medical support for sleep disorders; and
- Communicate that improved sleep health can reduce the risk of:
- developing a serious health condition, impaired judgement and mental functioning, and decreased productivity and performance.
Consider the proposed education campaign developed by the Australasian Sleep Association and the Sleep Health Foundation as part of their 2019 budget submission as a solid basis and estimate of costs for such a campaign.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government in consultation with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and other key stakeholders:
- Assess the current knowledge levels of general practitioners, nurses and psychologists in relation to sleep health, and
- Develop effective training mechanisms to improve the knowledge of primary healthcare practitioners in diagnosing and managing sleep health problems.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government investigate options to separate the existing ‘Respiratory and Sleep Medicine’ speciality into independent ‘Respiratory’ and ‘Sleep Medicine’ specialities under the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency framework.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government fund research focussed on:
- The prevalence of sleep disorders with a particular focus on under-researched population groups such as women and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;
- The prevalence, causes, and mechanisms of rare or not well understood sleep disorders, including narcolepsy and idiopathic hypersomnia;
- Further analysis of existing population health and longitudinal studies that have collected data relating to sleep;
- The impact of long-term shift work on sleep health and potential measures to minimise the associated health risks; and
- The effects of digital devices and electronic media on sleep health, especially among children and adolescents.