Are you getting enough?
I try to prioritise my sleep, I really do, but I haven’t slept properly for 11 years since the birth of my first child.
My three children all ‘sleep through’. They sleep really well and have done for quite a while. I check them at night and they are fast asleep, and to add insult to injury so is the cat on my daughter’s bed.
For some reason, the second my head hits the pillow, my mind starts racing with thoughts and feelings and concerns about things I need to do for the kids and activities I have to book. Then I wake up with every tiny little noise, a habit formed when the kids were babies.
I should count myself lucky. A friend of mine suffers from terrible insomnia even worse than me and it has become her ‘normal’. She’s learned to function on little sleep but is constantly sick and nervous and tired. When we catch up for coffee (very strong coffee), instead of the usual chit chat, we share advice on how to get to sleep.
Lack of sleep can lead to fatigue (of course) and weight gain, not to mention bad moods, irritability, lack of motivation, poor judgment and memory decline. You might start to worry about not sleeping, which can lead to more worry due to a lack of sleep and before you know it you are in a vicious cycle of sleeplessness and restlessness.
It all has to do with our circadian clock. Sleep and wake cycles are controlled by two chemicals produced in our bodies called adenosine (a brain transmitter) and melatonin (‘the hormone of darkness’). When our circadian rhythm is out of balance, poor quality sleep patterns develop. Women suffer from sleep disturbances more than men: female sex hormones can interfere with the circadian rhythm after our first period (Bei et al 2015). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - it’s hard to be a woman.
Other things can affect our circadian rhythm too...shift work, travel, caffeine, exposure to unnatural light before bed from electronic devices and alcohol consumption (Figueiro et al 2009; Chellappa et al 2011).
Sleep disturbances are common, with more than 1.5 million Australian’s suffering. That’s a lot of tired mothers and fathers and workers. According to Re-awakening Australia’s report, “The Economic Cost of Sleep Disorders in Australia, 2012”, lack of sleep has been shown to contribute to 4.5 per cent of workplace injuries and 4.3 per cent of car accidents.