Need more sleep? You're not alone

Dr David Cunnington ... "People need to find ways to restore their natural sleeping rhythms so they wake up feeling ...
Dr David Cunnington ... "People need to find ways to restore their natural sleeping rhythms so they wake up feeling refreshed." 

If you could have your pick, which would you choose: a good eight hours sleep, or a night of passion with a loved one?

Chances are, if you’re a woman, you’ll have picked sleep over sex – that’s according to a new survey, anyway.

Bayer recently polled 1000 Australians on their sleep patterns, and found that a whopping 92% of us have a bad night’s sleep at least once or twice a week. This leads to the overtiredness which saw 70 per cent of the surveyed women (and 50 per cent of the men) choosing snoozing over sex.

Not surprisingly, the survey found that many of us (57 per cent) are relying on coffee and energy drinks to get us through the day, with 26 per cent fitting in a lunchtime power nap.

Sleep expert David Cunnington said the findings are concerning. “Sleep is an essential ingredient to a healthy lifestyle, and it’s worrying to see the amount of people not getting enough sleep, waking up feeling tired and having to resort to naps and caffeine to get through the day. This is a vicious circle as stimulants and daytime napping will drive bad sleep habits,” he said.

You have to think ‘For me to maintain good health for myself, and to do the best for my baby, I’ve got to carve out some time for me’

Dr Cunnington says we need to understand that we don’t need to live with poor sleep habits, and that there are ways we can get better rest. We can start by making time to wind down at the end of the day before going to bed, and by making sure we allow enough time for sleep.

"Irregular sleep patterns reduce sleep quality, and people need to find ways to restore their natural sleeping rhythms so they wake up feeling refreshed," he says.

New parents and sleep

New parents obviously have their own sleep problems as they have to try to recharge their own batteries while still caring for their child. Dr Cunnington says that if you were an okay sleeper in the past, you’ll need to take whatever opportunities you can to get the sleep you need once your baby arrives.    

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“With a new baby, there will be shorter windows of opportunity for sleep at night, but there will also be short windows of opportunity during the day. So if you’re a good sleeper, you can take those opportunities to get some rest,” he says.

He also points out that it’s important to take these chances to sleep in a guilt-free way. “Rather than thinking ‘Oh my god, there are all these other things I should be doing’ when your baby’s asleep, you have to recognise that you might only get five hours at night, so you might be able to make up two hours during the day while the baby’s down.”

Once we have a few disrupted nights, we can start to feel anxious and depressed about our lack of sleep. This can lead to even worse sleep patterns. Dr Cunnington points out that when this happens as a parent, it’s a good time to get help from a partner or friend, to try to engineer some time off.

“You have to think ‘For me to maintain good health for myself, and to do the best for my baby, I’ve got to carve out some time for me.’ And that might mean some time off – sleeping in a different room with the door shut, and if you’re breastfeeding, by expressing some milk for someone else to do the feeds. If can also be a good time to go and stay somewhere else for the night, if you can.” 

Learn more about sleep and how you can get a better night’s rest at www.howtosleepwell.com.au.