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Over 2,500,000 Australians suffer with undiagnosed Sleep Apnea. Are you one of them?
This article is a whole lot of words about numbers.
They’re very big numbers, but they’re ultimately very personal. We’re talking about statistics. The cold, hard kind. The stuff of life and death. The kind the voice-over guy on drink driving-awareness ads is referring to when he implores you not to become one. These particular stats aren’t about drinking, but they do qualify as ‘sobering’. Let’s start with number 1. In the opinion of many doctors and public health officials, the number one health issue (not named Covid) afflicting society is sleep disorders. And one of the most common and consequential of those is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
There has been extensive research and numerous studies, both in Australia and globally, to quantify the extent of sleep disorders in general, and OSA in particular. The Federal Government even conducted a parliamentary Inquiry into the issue. It’s little wonder they felt the need, given the cost of OSA - combining direct health-related spending and the value of lost productivity in the economy - exceeds $5 billion annually.
This number might sound like something out of a government defense budget, but there’s an easy (albeit confronting) explanation for how these dollars rack up, and why sleep disorders and OSA sit atop the country’s public enemy list.
First up is the sheer extent of its prevalence in the community, with an estimated one in five Australians affected by a major sleep disorder, and more than half of those - more than 2 and half million people – suffering with undiagnosed OSA.
So, we’ve got a huge (and growing) number of people impacted. You then add to that (or ‘multiply’ that, to be mathematically correct) the scope and variety of health consequences. Because sleep is such an essential bodily function, the flow-on effects range widely, from contributing to type II diabetes, to cardiovascular health (with heightened risk of stroke and heart disease), to mental health, and even road safety and workplace injuries.
Those numbers above may (justifiably) be on the scary side, but the aspect of OSA that concerns governments the most, and what should be of most concern to you on a personal level, was a single word: “undiagnosed”.
It’s estimated that up to 80% percent of people experiencing Obstructive Sleep Apnea are undiagnosed (that’s worth repeating: Eight. Zero. Eighty. 80 percent!). For governments, that’s a ticking time bomb of escalating health and productivity costs which is not good for the tax-collector and taxpayer alike. But for each and every individual who make up that group of 2.5 million people, that (silently) ticking time bomb is a lot worse than ‘not good’. They probably already know there’s something wrong. The daily quality of life of an OSA sufferer is dramatically inferior to those who enjoy sufficient, quality sleep. But it’s what’s happening to their underlying health that, in many cases, won’t reveal itself until the damage has been done.
The silver lining here (if we squint hard enough to see it) is that the term ‘undiagnosed’ can also be taken as a positive. It means there’s huge upside for improvement. Not just for the nation’s bottom line, but for the life (and life expectancy) of everyone who thinks it might be worth asking their GP about sleep apnea.
It simply starts with awareness. Awareness that the way you’re feeling shouldn’t need to remain a mystery, or something to be endured. Awareness that statistically speaking, there’s every chance you’re one of the ones that add up to make the millions of sufferers. Then it just needs some action. Making sure that for the sake of yourself and those that love you, that you won’t settle for becoming a statistic.
So, if you’re concerned that your energy levels aren’t what they should be, make an appointment with your doctor and ask about your sleep health.
Oh, and don’t drink and drive.