IT IS time mothers started taking their own advice.

Every day, they tell their children to go to bed, take a break and rest, but when it comes to doing it themselves, most shove it to the bottom of the priority list.

Queensland University of Technology Psychology professor Karen Thorpe says that needs to change.

Speaking from the USA where she was presenting at SLEEP - the conference of the Society of Research in Sleep, Dr Thorpe said rest and 'me-time' protected one's mental health and was vital for parents - especially in the early stages.

"(Me-time) is particularly important for mothers who will be dealing with the physical exhaustion of sleep disruption and breastfeeding," she said.

Lack of sleep also heightens the likelihood of a mother developing postnatal depression, which research shows affects 10-20% of mothers in the early stages of parenthood.

"Fatigue is certainly associated with poor mental health," Dr Thorpe said.

"Rest and relaxation, in whatever form, provides some sense of control and enjoyment and is therefore really important.

Sleep is vital for mums and their family.
Sleep is vital for mums and their family. Wavebreakmedia Ltd

"Our research findings (that I am presenting in Denver this week) show that when infants do not sleep in the day mothers have a raised risk of depression in the early postpartum months."

She said the flow-on affect to the family and child could be just as damaging.

"Stress, tiredness and depression can affect the responsiveness of mothers to their babies and this has implications for infant development," Dr Thorpe said.

"Work I did some time ago in the UK showed that when mothers were stressed or depressed in the early postpartum months, their partner's mental health was also more likely to be poor.

"When we are tired and stressed we have less emotional control and may be more reactive with those around us."

So next time you cross your me-time activity off your to-do list, don't.

It's an investment in you and your family's health. 



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