Motherhood has ruined my sleep, and I'm not alone

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images 

We're a nation of poor sleepers, according to the latest research.

And I'm putting my hand up to say I'm one of them. Parenting, work and household expectations keep me awake at night.

If it's not lying in bed at night struggling to get to sleep because of all the checklists in my head, then I'm awake at 3am worrying about conversations I had five years ago. It's a constant struggle to get the sleep I need.

And that's not even taking into account the endless hours of sleep lost to having children. I'll never get those hours back. I'm destined to always be tired.

I'm not alone.

More than half of adult Australians are suffering from at least one chronic sleep symptom, which in turn impacts on their overall wellbeing and happiness, according to the latest research.

In a report commissioned by the Sleep Health Foundation, it's been revealed almost 60 per cent of people regularly experience at least one chronic sleep symptom (like trouble falling asleep). While, almost 15 per cent of people surveyed show symptoms which could result in a diagnosis of clinical insomnia.

This chronic condition is characterised by a number of symptoms including difficulty falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, or waking too early on a regular basis.

Researchers from Flinders University, the University of Adelaide and the Appleton Institute of CQ University surveyed 2,044 adults about their sleep patterns. And they discovered that sleep problems are prevalent across the community.


"It's troubling to see just how common it is for Australians to struggle with their sleep when it's such a vital aspect of good health and happiness," senior author of the study, and Sleep Health Foundation spokesperson, Professor Robert Adams said.

"About 60 per cent of people report at least one sleep symptom occurring three or more times per week. 

"Failing to get the quality or quantity of sleep you need affects your mood, safety, and health, not to mention your relationships with family and friends. It's very important to get it right."

Of those surveyed, 48.8 per cent said their daily routine prevented them from getting the sleep they need.

And significantly more women than men reported "often or always" worrying about getting a good night's sleep (31 per cent compared to 21 per cent) and being overwhelmed by thoughts when trying to sleep (35 per cent compared to 25 per cent)

"This suggests that for a huge proportion of our population, the pressures of work, families, social, or other lifestyle-related pressures prohibit them for getting the shut-eye they need," Professor Adams said.

Here are the Sleep Foundation's five top tips for getting to sleep:

1. Keep to a routine

Try to wake up and go to bed at the same time every day.

2. Don't over indulge before bed

Watch what you eat and drink before going to bed. Caffeine and alcohol are both stimulants and can potentially keep you up at night. Also don't go to bed on a full or empty stomach.

3. Take time to relax before bed

Spend time planning out your day and quietly relaxing, before getting into bed.

4. Create a quiet, comfortable and dark bedroom

Your body clock is affected by light, so turn off bright lights in your room and switch off all devices at least one hour before bed. Ensure you have a good pillow and bedding suitable for the season. 

5. Don't be a clock watcher

Watching the clock when you can't sleep actually increases the stress hormone known as cortisol in your body, making it more difficult to fall asleep. Try turning your clock away from you. And if you're still struggling to fall asleep after 20 minutes, try getting out of bed until you're feeling sleepy again.