As a colleague, and new dad, announced “I'm so sleep-deprived” on his arrival to work on Friday, I nodded knowingly and informed him it was actually World Sleep Day that day.
We wondered if that meant taking naps in the office would be OK. It reminded me of when I was pregnant and working an evening shift. I would quite often put my head on my desk during my dinner break for a 20-minute kip to keep me going.
Then when our kids came along, I remember every minute of rest you could get really counted.
Our kids are well out of that newborn phase now but we still never seem to get enough sleep, and as I canvassed a few people in the office on Friday it appeared there were plenty of others burning the candle at both ends too, regardless if they had kids or not.
We moved house last week, which had me yawning to no end throughout the day.
I know I need to get to bed earlier, and in fact some mornings I wake up thinking, ‘I'm going to bed early tonight’, before the day has even started but it never seems to happen.
And I do often wonder, if we keep this up, what kind of long-term damage to our health are we risking?
I queried Associate Professor Mitch Duncan, from the University of Newcastle's Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition, who does research regarding sleep.
He has just been awarded almost $60,000 from Diabetes Australia for a new trial called Sleep, Move and Eat aimed at improving the effectiveness of behavioural weight-loss interventions.
Associate Professor Duncan said many Australians had poor sleep health, which affected many aspects of their day-to-day life in general.
“Obviously good sleep is important for health,” he said. “Typically we focus on the duration of sleep, seven to nine hours, and that’s important but also there’s the quality of sleep that is key, and also the timing of sleep.
“A lot of people will have varied sleep in terms of bedtimes ... it makes it difficult to get into a decent routine around sleep and keeping the body clock on schedule.”
The result, he said, can mean “waking up feeling quite lethargic and unrefreshed”, which resonated with me as I can go to bed anywhere from 9.30pm to 1am on a day-to-day basis but generally am awake around 6am or before.
Associate Professor Duncan said the “quality and length of sleep is linked to increased risk of mortality” as well as cardiovascular disease and diabetes risks, and poor mental health outcomes. Sleep was “normally one of the first things to be sacrificed when work, family or social pressures hit”.
The slogan of World Sleep Day was ‘Sleep soundly, nurture life’, and Associate Professor Duncan said there were key things people can do during the day to improve sleep, including limiting caffeine and alcohol consumption and being more active.
You can get more tips through: www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/fact-sheets-a-z/187-good-sleep-habits.html.
Renee Valentine is a writer, personal trainer and mother. firstname.lastname@example.org.