Experts are calling for mums to think about the ultimate gift that they could give themselves this Mother's Day - a quality night's sleep. The push comes as new research confirms the average mum is surviving on just six hours of shut-eye per night, with 75 per cent feeling depressed or losing their temper as a result.
The new findings come from globally leading and trusted sleep specialists, Sealy, who have been handcrafting mattresses in Australia for over 60 years. With a commitment to providing sleep support and comfort, Sealy surveyed over 11,000 respondents across five countries to complete its report, including 2,300 respondents living in Australia.
Alarmingly, out of all the mums surveyed, only 20 per cent claim to regularly have a restful night's sleep, with the remaining 80 per cent saying that their children come into the bedroom to wake them every night. Once these mums have settled their children and are ready to get themselves back to sleep, nearly half take more than 30 minutes to drift off or don't get back to sleep at all.
Results also show that mums with more than one child take even longer to get back to sleep. Those with three children are twice as likely to stay awake for longer than 30 minutes after a sleep interruption than those with just one child.
Dr Amy Reynolds is a mum, Sealy Sleep Expert and Sleep Researcher at CQUniversity Australia. She explained that it's important for mums to prioritise how they can improve the quality of those precious peaceful moments to ensure they keep on top of their health.
"Tiredness directly affects our mood, irritability and performance. Sleep doesn't only impact our mental health...lack of quality sleep is linked to weight gain, diabetes and even heart disease.
"As a mum of two young children, I know there can be really tough nights where the amount of sleep we get is disrupted and reduced, especially when children are really young, or when there is illness to consider. However, there are things mums can be doing to ensure that we are able to get to sleep when we would like to, and therefore provide our bodies with the best possible opportunity to reset and recover."
This Mother's Day, Dr Reynolds is encouraging mums to take a look at their sleep environment to ensure that it is cool, dark and comfortable, think about the times they are eating and drinking, and make sure they're getting enough exercise.
Wade Ganzer, Sealy Sleep and Bedding Expert explained that one way mums can ensure they're getting a restful sleep is to look for full body support.
"To fall into a deep, restful sleep where the body fully recovers all muscles need to relax. If your body isn't supported in the right areas, such as your lower back, the brain is engaging the muscles instead of telling them to rest. Expecting mums also need good support to accommodate their body as it changes shape throughout the months. A quality mattress will provide support in all areas."
Mums can seek sleep tips from Dr Reynolds and learn how to improve sleep quality at Sealy.com.au.
Question: Can you share with us some of the findings of The Sealy Sleep Census?
Dr. Amy Reynolds: One main thing that Sealy looked into is the quality of sleep that mums are getting. The research confirms the average mum is surviving on just six hours of shut-eye per night, with 75 per cent feeling depressed or losing their temper as a result.
When it comes to all Australians, only 1 in 4 Australians get a full eight hours sleep each night and, only 35 per cent of Australians feel well rested when they wake up most days. Around 20 per cent of Aussies surveyed face this insomnia battle three times or more per week, and a further 20 per cent suffer once or twice per week.
Question: Are you surprised that only 1 in 5 Australian mums have a restful night's sleep?
Dr. Amy Reynolds: No, as a mum of two young children, I know there can be really tough nights where the amount of sleep we get is disrupted and reduced, especially when children are really young, or when there is an illness to consider. However, there are things mums can be doing to ensure that we are able to get to sleep when we would like to, and therefore provide our bodies with the best possible opportunity to reset and recover.
Question: What surprised you most about The Sealy Sleep Census?
Dr. Amy Reynolds: Despite admitting they have serious sleep issues, the Australian respondents from our survey surprisingly rated themselves as the healthiest out of the five countries surveyed. This suggests that Aussies are unaware of the health implications caused by a lack of sleep.
Question: What are your five golden rules for a quality night's sleep?
Dr. Amy Reynolds: Keep your gut happy
Your intestines are home to trillions of tiny microbes, who play an important role in keeping you healthy. Recent research even suggests that the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut can impact the quality of your sleep! Keeping those miniature microbes happy requires a balanced, fibre-rich diet.
Cut down on alcohol
While it may seem like you fall asleep quickly when you've had a few drinks, alcohol disrupts your sleep overnight and is more likely to make you feel unrefreshed in the morning. If you're hoping to feel refreshed, try to avoid alcohol or limit your intake.
Try to stay cool
It may feel good to rug up before bed, but the ideal sleep environment is one that is cool, quiet and comfortable. Think about the space that you are sleeping in, create a room which will become your sleep haven. There are also high-quality mattresses out there that are designed to let the heat flow through and keep you cool through the night.
Try to avoid technology
Tracking smartphone use with an app over a 30 day period has confirmed that more screen time is associated with poorer quality sleep. Cutting back on the time you spend on devices could be a good starting place to improve sleep.
Avoid the afternoon coffee
Caffeine is a stimulant, and it can last for hours in your system. Caffeine is not limited to your daily coffee (or coffees) – it is also in some teas, chocolate and soft drinks. If you feel you're particularly sensitive to caffeine, try limiting your consumption to the pre-lunch period.
Question: How does continuous poor night's sleep affect our short and long term health?
Dr. Amy Reynolds: As little as one night of poor sleep can affect our performance, safety, and the safety of others. Having an insufficient night's sleep over a period of two weeks can affect our ability to pay attention to tasks, remember important information and respond to instructions. This can have the equivalent effect of missing two nights of sleep in a row.
Regular insufficient sleep is associated with long-term chronic disease
Glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity are affected by as little as one week of insufficient sleep. While we might be more aware of the immediate effects of insufficient sleep in terms of sleepiness and mistakes, there are longer-term effects on our physical health too.
Short sleep is associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome.
Insufficient sleep changes the amount of food we choose to consume.
When tired people are allowed to eat unlimited food of their choice, they choose to eat considerably more than those who get enough sleep. This food intake is more than the body needs for energy, and may explain weight gain when people are consistently getting insufficient sleep.
Question: How will a tech detox help sleep deprived Australians? What are the negative effects of keeping our phones, near our bed?
Dr. Amy Reynolds: Around 70 per cent of Australians said that they keep their phone in close vicinity of their bed every day or most days Shockingly, 64 per cent of these respondents believe it has some or a lot of negative impact on sleep, yet continue to keep the tech close by.
A hormone called melatonin helps to prepare the body for sleep. Levels of melatonin rise in the evening before bed, but bright light can affect these rising levels. Technology can throw this off as the light sends the wrong cue to the brain – so, when we are wanting to sleep we are giving our brains a signal that we are awake. It could also be that when we are using technology to interact with others we are more alert and engaged, which could affect our ability to fall asleep quickly.
Interview by Brooke Hunter