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Women's Health

Why Moms Can’t Sleep

More and more moms are saying they aren't getting anywhere near enough ZZZs -- and it's wrecking their health, their careers, even their marriages.
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WebMD Feature from "Redbook" Magazine

By Amy Engeler

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 At 3 a.m., with all the houses dark up and down her winding suburban street in West Warwick, Rhode Island, Jo-Ann Frey, 37, lights a candle so she can see well enough to dust her furniture. Careful not to turn on any lights or make noise that might wake up her family, she drifts from room to room with her candle and cleaning supplies, waiting until she feels sleepy enough to climb back into bed. That feeling doesn't come -- and when she hears the alarm in the bedroom go off at 4:30, she keeps going. Yawning, she prepares the kids' lunches, tidies up around the house and gets ready for the hour-long drive to her office, where she starts work at seven.

After those long nights, which occur three or four times a week and give her only about five hours of sleep a night, Frey struggles to stay awake through the day. She snacks continuously to keep busy and alert on the drive to work; during meetings she fidgets so she won't fall asleep. When she gets home, her husband and two kids tread carefully in her presence. "I've heard them say, 'Oh, Mommy's yelling today,'" she says. "It's not a nice feeling."

Frey isn't the only exhausted mom caught in a cycle of wakeful nights and groggy days. According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), almost two thirds of women -- many of them mothers -- have insomnia, meaning that they have difficulty falling or staying asleep. Countless Redbook readers have written in with the same problem, saying their insomnia is threatening to ruin their careers, their marriages and everything else they hold dear. To make matters worse, not enough physicians understand the severity of the problem, leaving women to believe that sleeplessness is part of being a mom and that they should just get with the program. "I'm nearly ready to drop off into a coma at any given moment," says Niki McDonald, 29, a mother of three in Idaho Falls, Idaho, who gets five hours of sleep on her best nights. "Help!"

What's keeping so many mothers wide awake into the wee hours? Redbook reveals what's behind this silent sleeplessness epidemic -- and finds out what you can do to get the rest you so desperately need.

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