Humans spend a third of their lives counting sheep. A paddock of sleep sheep might be easy in theory, but any sleep farmer would testify that it’s a lot harder than what it looks. Sleep is crucial to good health, but it’s often forgotten about. It’s linked to conditions such as cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes. It even has links to cancer. The barista on the way to work might seem to provide a pleasurable fix; it’s still by no means a cure.
Not enough sunlight during the day and too much artificial screen light at night disrupts sleep patterns. A combination with life stress and factors including diet and exercise contribute to a sleepless nights. There are myths surrounding the number of hours that should be spent sleeping and myths about the amount of times a person wakes through the night.
So what is a good sleeper?
Sleep psychologist Amanda Mackay says that a good sleeper listens to their body’s signals. A good sleeper doesn’t pressure themselves.
“They go to bed when they feel sleepy and get out of bed when they have had enough sleep,” Amanda said.
Sleeping right through the night, the number eight and the theory that naps are bad for you are myths busted by sleep professionals like Amanda. These myths paint a disturbing picture, contributing to the economics of sleep. Sleep shouldn’t be rule driven with dark under eye consequences.
“Sleep will not happen if you are trying to sleep,” Amanda said.
Superman can lift a b-double truck, but mother’s frequently carry responsibilities the weight of that truck.
Research by economist, Dan Hamermish’s claims sleep reductions are bigger among women than men who have small children. Women that are waking up to cries of hunger, reduce their sleep by almost two hours per week. Nights spent attending to the baby affects cognitive ability through the day.
For first time mother Brooke Cardwell, sleep was the last of her concerns following the birth of her daughter Lily. Lily had complications at birth, spending the first few weeks of her life inside an incubator. This alone led to sleepless nights and unimaginable stress for mum. The experience for Brooke was heartbreaking, with Lily being her first child.
“I never got that skin to skin contact… so I suffered with postnatal depression.” – Brooke.
Postnatal depression caused sleepless nights for Brooke. It’s a form of depression developed within the first few months of giving birth. When Lily was brought home, Brooke spent the night wide-eyed ready to respond to a whimper.
Research by Dr April Hirschberg shows women with postpartum depression experience poor quality of sleep in comparison to women without. She suggests that clinics need to address sleep quality when dealing with postpartum mothers.
With Lily at three months of age, Brooke still walks skeptically through dark corridors attentive to any Lily made noise. She believes she was harsh on herself in the beginning.
“I thought I was the shitest mother out there… but now I don’t know why I beat myself up so much about it,” Brooke said.
All I Have to do is Dream
The fear of what is next following graduation is enough to guarantee a sleepless night or two. On average 69.5% of students step out of a graduation robe into full time employment within the first four months.
Kristy Holt experienced the robe and the cap, signalling the completion of her paramedics’ degree. She was fortunately within that 69.5%. With the cap thrown high in the air, Kristy was excited to take on a job that put her skills to professional use. The world of coffee and concealer had opened an all new dimension for Kristy. The squeal of sirens and pump of adrenaline would replace the textbooks. In this industry lethargy is hazardous. There is no room for tired mistakes.
Since beginning her position as a full time paramedic, tales of heroism, but also odd 000 dials are dinner table tales. The job is demanding, with clock off in close proximity to the next clock on
“I usually try and get seven hours accumulated sleep in one day. Doesn’t mean I get it all at once,” Kristy said.
Pouring beer at the local RSL into the night, and lengthy work placement through university has trained Kristy to know her body’s needs when it comes to sleep. She listens when her body is crying out for a sleep, prioritising the need.
“I’ve learnt to work on little sleep but I also know my body. So between shifts I make sure that instead of catching up with people I have a quiet night in,” Kristy said.
For Amanda Mackay people with demanding jobs, such as Kristy’s, consider napping to be the secret. President Donald Trump has boasted that five hours is all he needs, giving him the edge on his competitors. However, Amanda believes the figures aren’t so black and white. She believes he leaves out the hours spent napping out. Covfefe, right?
“When you look into successful historical figures that claim to only sleep less than 5 hours per night they tend to be good “nappers” so that when you add up the sleep they get in a 24 hour period they tend/can sleep more,” Amanda said.
Kristy manages to catch up on sleep during the five days off. That said, distractions of day add difficulty. Heavy footsteps down the hallway or the buzz of the telephone interrupt. Kristy is also able to sleep at work in between jobs. She still needs to be prepared for the emergency rush at any given moment.
“At work if you sleep you still have to be able to wake up to a phone, or a radio,” Kristy said.
Kristy often is called to jobs where sleep has taken a disastrous toll. She experiences firsthand the physically disaster caused by cognitive disruption. Accidents that involve innocent, avoidable workplace incidents. Or the unforgettable scene of crushed metal with a confused driver behind the wheel, who could have sworn they had the right of way.
“It happens a lot, and a lot of them are work related. The injuries are usually minor but could be a whole lot worse and it’s terrible. I think that people aren’t able to get enough sleep or are too afraid to mention it to their bosses.” – Kristy
Will Ferrell has painted an obscure picture of what life in a newsroom is. He had the role of reading a teleprompter without taking the job seriously in Anchorman. The emotional tantrum in the phone box is possibly the most accurate portrayal of the job.
Breaking news can happen at any moment, leaving a journalist no choice but to wave their shut eye adieu. With a bag constantly packed and ready to go, the demand to drop everything and go is unprecedented.
Amanda says that successful career women know what works for them in sudden situations. They test the waters and learn from experience. They are able to see what fails and learn from it as well as adapting what does work to suit the situation.
“I’d say successful people are getting the sleep they need most of the time. We can function fairly well on less than optimal sleep for short periods of time,” Amanda said.
Cyclone Debbie unleashed a force of anger on Queensland and Angie Asimus was there at the firing line wearing a raincoat with a 7 News microphone in hand.
“I just resign myself to the fact that for a couple of weeks there won’t be much sleep happening. Adrenaline usually gets me through those long days working from Sunrise through to 6pm News,” Angie said.
In her experience sleep is crucial to success. During the less busy periods at work Angie can manage to sleep for up to 8 hours, allowing an extra hour if the night before was a late shift. The ability to work efficiently on limited sleep is still an expectation left out of the job description.
“In terms of a link between sleep and success, I feel that in the media industry you certainly need to be someone who can function on very little sleep at times,” Angie said.
Research shows that a limitation of sleep can cause cognitive thinking to be impacted. Verbal, visual and basic concentration skills are limited. In their research Paula Alhola and Päivi Polo-Kantola argue that in terms of cognitive performance, women may endure prolonged wakefulness better than their male counterparts. They take longer to recover physiologically. This study proves that women could rule the world. For Angie it proves her ability to work on a limited amount of sleep is doable, just not advisable. The ability to get things right on TV is too much to risk.
“Accuracy and thinking on your feet is an integral part of news gathering and reporting… There’s not much room for error on live television.” – Angie.
Responsibility is always breathing down onto tired necks, causing mountain-like goosebumps. It’s always there. However allowing these responsibilities to overtake sleep’s importance impacts health and the ability to function mentally leaving a wide space for error. It also is a hazard to safety.
Sleep is not as simple as snuggling up and dozing off regardless of how much of a good sleeper we might be. The process comes down to science. REM is an acronym used by professionals, and it plays a significant role in sleep. It stands for rapid eye movement, which mostly occurs in the second half of the night. It works to store information long term into the memory. Long nights spent preparing for the procrastinated tomorrow, means a week later the crammed session will be forgotten.
Watching Netflix in bed is also preventing the quality sleep. The artificial light produced by technology can confuse the brain if used prior to bedtime. The body thinks it’s day and it wants to party all night long regardless of the time. All of a sudden it’s 3am!
“As a result, our body clock doesn’t get the message that it’s dark outside so our production our sleep hormone melatonin is delayed,” Amanda said.
Sleep is ranked as important as other health components like weight or diet. It influences operation and can have a large say in how happy we are in day to day life. With so many factors involved in having a goodnight sleep, its important society is aware of the measures that should be taken. Women that are up to their neck in responsibilities are way too busy to be tired.
- Alhola P & Polo-Kantola P 2007, ‘Sleep Deprivation: Impact on cognitive performance’, Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, no 3, viewed 27 September 2017, <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2656292/>
- Dubner, S, 2015, ‘The Economics of Sleep, Part 1: A New freakonomics Radio episode’, Freakonomics, viewed 22nd August 2017, <http://freakonomics.com/podcast/the-economics-of-sleep-part-1-a-new-freakonomics-radio-episode/ >
- Dubner, S, 2015, ‘The Economics of Sleep, Part 2: A New freakonomics Radio episode’, Freakonomics, viewed 24th August 2017, <http://freakonomics.com/podcast/the-economics-of-sleep-part-2-a-new-freakonomics-radio-episode/ >
- Hammermish D, 1990, ‘Sleep and the Allocation of Time’, Journal of Political Economy, no 5, viewed 20 September 2017, <http://www.nber.org/papers/w2988>
- Hirschberg A, 2011, Postpartum Depression and Poor Sleep Quality Occurs Together, MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health, viewed 28 September 2017, <https://womensmentalhealth.org/posts/postpartum-depression-and-poor-sleep-quality-occur-together/>
- Lambert O, 2017, ‘New data reveals which universities have the worst employment outcomes’, News.com.au, viewed 27 September, 2017, <http://www.news.com.au/finance/work/careers/new-data-reveals-which-universities-have-the-worst-employment-outcomes/news-story/cb074c851dae4bfd2c86c39baf9f2350>