The 17th of March is World Sleep Day. It’s not a day that the average Australian will mark in their calendar. But for my sister Margaret and I, learning the value of sleep and rest has given us every reason to celebrate.
As single mothers who launched a successful business and survived breast cancer together, we’ve learnt a mountain of life’s lessons – one of the most profound being the importance of slowing down and prioritising self-care.
Now that we’re on the other side of our cancer battle our passion is to make sure other women have the space to rest and care for themselves every single day.
Before cancer, we worked hard and pushed ourselves in life, motherhood and business. Nothing could have prepared us for what came next.
Mags and I had always been hard workers. We are both single mums (Mags has a son and a daughter, and I have a daughter), and we live right next door to each other. I’ve always worked for myself, as a graphic designer, then a professional makeup artist and painter while Mags worked in the health sector for over 14 years.
Even though Mags and I supported each other, life was always busy, and I’ll admit we didn’t prioritise rest. We had always wanted to create a business together, and we knew we wanted to create a product that would help us to deal with the chaos a little better. We found our answer in Lula Eye Mask, Australia’s first self-warming eye mask, and went full steam ahead with product testing.
It was while we were creating our first samples in September 2020 that Mags (now 47) was diagnosed with breast cancer.
At first, there was no question about “dropping everything” – including our business plans. I was determined to make Mag’s treatment and recover as painless as possible, so I started helping her kids with their homework, doing school drop-offs alongside my own daughter Frankie, and making sure we kept up the rituals of family dinners each night.
Then, six weeks later, I received the shocking news that I too had breast cancer.
The momentum we had for our business needed to significantly slow, and at times, come to a dead halt. We unexpectedly became our own best customers, needing the warming eye masks to get through days of feeling unwell from chemotherapy, being stuck in hospital for surgeries or just unable to sleep – despite being exhausted.
What Mags and I came to realise through this journey is that we needed to start doing what we were preaching to our customers: prioritise self-care and resting.
Even warriors need to know when to rest.
The name we gave our business, Lula, means “warrior” which resonated with the cancer journey we both endured.
No matter how much passion we had to launch our business - and to succeed in other parts of life and motherhood - we had to learn when it was time to rest.
Like you, we’d probably heard it dozens of times over the years: Rest is fundamental to health. Experts say we need 7-9 hours of good quality sleep per night. Getting enough sleep can help with regulating appetite, metabolism and mood, as well as immune, hormonal and cardiovascular functioning.
On the other hand, not getting enough sleep comes with increased risks of chronic health conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and mental illness.
What we know as single mums is that our lifestyles are working against us. With late night screen scrolling to “unwind”, our caffeine culture and the pressures of juggling work and family, women face an uphill battle to meet the sleep quota.
Women are more likely than men to experience sleep problems.
A recent report found 2 in 3 Australians experience at least one “sleep problem” including insomnia, short sleep and interrupted sleep. Sleep problems also include the day-time fallout from not getting enough sleep, such as drowsiness, irritability and moodiness.
Research has also shown that women are more likely than men to report sleep problems for a range of reasons, including mental health challenges, pressures from our role as caregivers and our biology.
Insomnia – something I experienced during my cancer treatment - is also up to 1.4 times more common in women than men.
Now we’re embracing a slower path.
Our mission through Lula Eye Mask is to inspire moments of self-care that bring calm and joy to women’s busy lives. We’ve seen the joy our product brings to our customers, helping them slow down, relax and sleep. And we’re determined to help women never feel guilty about taking time out to look after themselves.
Our cancer journey and our beautiful, growing Lula community have forever changed us. Even now that we’ve been given the ”all clear” for cancer, we’re still on a journey of recovery (Mags has had two hip replacements and I’ve had preventative surgery) and we still actively seek out that ‘slower path’.
We take days off regularly. We lean on support we’re offered or ask for it when needed. We don’t put time constraints and pressure on ourselves or each other.
We’ve used the challenges of life to remind ourselves to prioritise our own care.
This World Sleep Day, our hope is that you’ll do the same.