18/03/2016 9:42 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST

The Sleep Revolution Comes To Australia

Woman sleeping in bed
Brand New Images via Getty Images
Woman sleeping in bed

Sleep is something we all have in common -- it's one of humanity's great unifiers. It binds us to one another, to our ancestors, to our past, and to the future. No matter who we are or where we are in the world and in our lives, we share a common need for sleep. And right now, we're in a sleep crisis.

Here are just a few statistics that point to the depth of this crisis in Australia. Sleep disorders cost Australia more than $5 billion a year in health care and indirect costs. And 'reduction in life quality' added costs equivalent to a whopping $31.4 billion a year. A report, aptly titled 'Re-Awakening Australia', linked lack of sleep with lost productivity and driving and workplace accidents.

At the same time, in the last four decades, science has validated much of the ancient wisdom about the importance of sleep. We've made incredible discoveries about all the things going on in our brains and our bodies while we're sleeping, and these findings have fueled a sleep renaissance, in which the power of sleep to profoundly affect virtually every aspect of our lives is beginning to be recognised.

One of the most important recent findings is that sleep is essentially like bringing in the overnight cleaning crew to clear the toxic waste proteins that accumulate between brain cells during the day. Dr. Maiken Nedergaard, a co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester, has studied the mechanism underlying these cleaning functions. "It's like a dishwasher," she said. Just as we wouldn't eat off dirty dishes, why should we settle for going through the day with anything less than the full power and potential of our brains?

The combination of all the new science and the proliferating casualties has led to significant recent shifts around sleep. And, in fact, some of the most important, fascinating studies in recent years have come out of Australia. For example, it was an Australian study that found that after being awake for 17 to 19 hours (a normal day for many of us!), we can experience levels of cognitive impairment equal to having a blood alcohol level of .05 percent. And if we're awake just a few hours more, we're up to the equivalent of 0.1 percent -- legally drunk. And in the what-not-to-eat-before-bed department, Australian researchers found that participants in a study who ate food containing Tabasco sauce and mustard before bed took longer to fall asleep and slept less. They also found that the participants' body temperatures increased after eating spicy food, another factor that leads to poor sleep.

What truly makes the Sleep Revolution transformative is inviting more and more voices to join the conversation. Because from the moment we're born until the moment we die, we're all in a relationship with sleep. And we all have stories to tell.

So we want to hear from you. To join the conversation, email our blog team at to share your story. You can use the following prompts to get you started:

  • Are you happy with your relationship with sleep?
  • Do you wake up recharged and ready to go?
  • Have you had a wake-up call (as I did)?
  • Was there a time when sleep deprivation affected your health or your judgment?

And please share your story, and your photos, on your social media channels, using the hashtag #sleeprevolution.

  • What's on your nightstand? Use the hashtag #OneNightStand
  • The one thing you can't sleep without
  • Your best sleep tips
  • The last thing you do before you go to sleep each night (#LastThing)
  • The first thing you do when you wake up (#FirstThing)