Moms and Sleep Deprivation
Sleep-Deprived Mothers: The Health Effects
Of course, many sleep-deprived mothers just pooh-pooh the recommendations
about getting more rest. Sure, it would be swell if they could sleep eight
hours a night, but it just seems absurdly unrealistic.
It doesn't help that as a culture, we tend to look down on sleep. Getting
too much -- or even just enough -- implies softness. Some sleep-deprived
mothers take pride in doing too much and sleeping too little, trading war
stories of sleepless nights with other moms at the park.
But sleep experts are trying to get people to change their attitude about
sleep. "We really need to look at sleep as something that's just as important
to good health as diet and exercise," Ronald Kramer, MD, a spokesperson for the
American Academy of Sleep Medicine and a specialist at the Colorado Sleep
Disorders Center in Englewood, Colo.
Roth agrees. "We have good data linking insufficient sleep with all sorts of
problems," Roth tells WebMD. "It's connected to poor performance at work,
obesity, diabetes, excessive risk-taking behavior, and heart disease."
Honestly, if you pick a disease or health problem at random from a medical
text, it's probably worsened by or linked to sleep loss.
The Impact of Sleep Loss on Mothers
If looking after your own health isn't enough to get you to change your
habits, remember that you're not the only one affected. If you're constantly
tired, your whole family will feel it.
"If you're getting enough sleep, it will help you be a more involved
mother," says Mindell. "It's certainly a lot easier to play the 17th round of
Ring Around the Rosie with your 2-year-old when you're not exhausted."
There are real risks to chronic exhaustion, too -- risks that many
sleep-deprived mothers just don't take seriously.
"Not getting enough sleep really affects your ability to function," says
Mindell. "You're more likely to make mistakes when you're tired. You're more
likely to slip and fall, or cut yourself when chopping vegetables, or forget to
fasten the straps of your baby's high chair."
Some of the scariest risks come when a sleep-deprived mother gets in the
car. Studies have compared the risks of driving drowsy with the risks of
driving drunk -- it's estimated to cause 100,000 auto accidents a year. And yet
mothers who would never, ever drive their children after having a few glasses
of wine drive exhausted every day.
"I worry a lot about all the moms out there who are driving drowsy," says
Mindell. "They're struggling to stay awake with a 1-year-old sitting in the
backseat. That can have terrible consequences."