Sleepless in New Zealand: Stress keeping half the country awake at night

Man lying in bed looking at clock
Half of Kiwis are having trouble clocking off, a new study by Sealy New Zealand reveals. Photo credit: Getty

The daily stresses of work and home life are wreaking havoc on Kiwis' sleeping habits, according to a new survey.

A sleep census by Sealy New Zealand reveals that 50 percent of New Zealanders are currently feeling stressed to the point that it's affecting their sleep.

Stress at work was ranked highly by Kiwis, with 40 percent of people saying work stresses were impacting the quality of their sleep, while 28 percent also listed stress at home as a barrier to sleep.

Dr Tony Fernando, an insomnia and sleep specialist from the University of Auckland, says daily stresses have a huge impact on the country's collective sleeping patterns.

"Stress and very busy minds are two of the top causes I see keeping people awake at night," says Dr Fernando.

"Many of my patients worry about work, money, family, health, relationships, what they have said earlier in the day and what people might think of them. They also worry that they will not be able to function the next week day when they struggle to sleep that night," he explains.

Dr Fernando notes that the more people obsess about sleep, the less sleep they get.

"When you go to bed stressed, the mind remains awake and vigilant as it tries to solve the worries. Unfortunately, solutions are not often found in the middle of the night and the mind keeps on churning endlessly, keeping you awake," he adds.

However, Dr Fernando says there are many ways to help combat stress in the quest for a better night's sleep.

"Sometimes, the worrying circuit kicks in because you go to bed earlier than your body naturally wants. Even though adults require an average of eight hours sleep, many people function extremely well with only six or seven hours." 

"Sometimes, not going to bed until you are sleepy can really help. When you go to bed sleepy, the brain does not have the energy to worry," he says.

Dr Fernando also suggests listening to soft music as it can distract from the worries of the day or using mindfulness and breathing techniques to get out of that "worry factory".

The sleep census also unearthed some other interesting insights about New Zealanders' sleeping habits.

The survey revealed that Canterbury is the place to be for getting more sleep each night. Eighty-one percent of Cantabrians reported getting seven to eight hours sleep each night, compared to the nationwide average of 61 percent.

As far as sleep routines go, people aged 60 and older are the most consistent with their sleeping habits, with fewer daytime naps and regular sleeping patterns throughout the week, including weekends.

Sealy New Zealand marketing manager Jenni Gaze says the Sleep Census highlights the issues many New Zealanders deal with every day, and the health issues that can arise as a result. 

"We recognise that an increasing number of Kiwis struggle with sleep; and this can be due to stress of work or family life, drinking alcohol or coffee before bed, alongside many other reasons. We're committed to helping Kiwis get into a good sleep routine and live healthier lives," she says.

"Night-time routines and ensuring you have a bed that provides the correct level of support and comfort for you, will help enable restful sleep. Our dedicated team of Sealy engineers and designers are always researching and innovating, creating technology and products to ensure optimal sleep conditions," Ms Gaze adds.