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Wed, 28 Oct 2020

New insights into sleep problems

Image: Gregory Pappas

New research suggests nearly two-thirds of middle-aged people are suffering from poor sleep, with an unhealthy lifestyle, shift work, depression, and obesity found to be key risk factors.

Dr Yaqoot Fatima is a Senior Research Fellow at James Cook University’s Mt Isa Centre for Rural & Remote Health and The University of Queensland’s Institute for Social Science Research.

She led a study applying sophisticated data analysis to the UK’s Biobank project, which followed more than 41,000 middle-aged people (with a median age of 57 years) over a six year time period.

“The Biobank is a unique study and in-depth analysis of it was a unique opportunity to address some of the limitations of existing studies,” said Dr Fatima.

She said that low socio-economic status, unhealthy lifestyle, poor health, and depressive symptoms were significantly linked to poor sleep, but the data revealed another troubling factor.

What was especially interesting was that around one third of the study participants who reported sleeping for the recommended duration, nonetheless reported considerable burden of sleep problems and daytime sleepiness,” said Dr Fatima.

She said this meant sleep researchers needed to look beyond sleep duration and focus on the whole spectrum of sleep health issues.

“Over the six years of follow-up there were indications that poor sleep is a relatively stable phenomenon, rather than something that will just go away by itself in time.

“This tells us early intervention is crucial for sleep improvement and it’s important that we do so as evidence consistently highlights the rising prevalence of poor sleep and its role in the growing burden of chronic health conditions,” said Dr Fatima.

She said the data indicated people from socio-economically deprived groups, particularly females from ethnic minorities, should be the highest priority for interventions aiming to improve sleep health.

Link to paper here


Dr Yaqoot Fatima
E: yaqoot.fatima@jcu.edu.au