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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.

Schedules + Stress = No Sleep

Should you peer into many of America's bedrooms, you'll find moms struggling for sleep, at all hours and for various reasons. Some moms, like Jo-Ann Frey, doze off early, only to wake up hours later and be unable to get back to sleep. Others, like Cristine Thomas, 33, of Wayne, Michigan, have trouble just falling asleep. "I can't shut my mind off," says Thomas, who stays home with her 20-month-old son, Jett. "At least when the baby got up a lot during the night, I had an excuse for being tired. Now he's sleeping well, and what do I do? I just lie there wishing I were asleep. I think about what I have to do tomorrow and his eating habits and why he isn't doing this or that. I've tried everything -- baths, lavender, making lists. Nothing helps."

Often moms can't get enough shut-eye because their crazed schedules don't allow it. "I constantly get up in the middle of the night to do things I can't get done during 'normal' hours," says Melissa Gaskins, 32, of Tallahassee, Florida, who often cleans and pays the bills during the wee hours. Faced with the options of getting an extra hour in bed or having a picture-perfect home or career, many choose the latter, says Gary Zammit, Ph.D., director of Clinilabs Sleep Disorders Institute at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York.

"We pack too much into our lives," says Zammit. "The only way to accomplish all these tasks is to cheat on sleep." High-profile high achievers, like Martha Stewart (who has claimed she gets by on four hours of sleep a night), don't help matters any. "Sleep isn't valued in our society," says Amy Wolfson, Ph.D., author of The Woman's Book of Sleep.

How Kids Lead to Sleep Problems

Children are often the culprits behind a mom's insomnia. Why? Because they demand that their mothers be present when they fall asleep. "Moms get somewhat stuck lying in bed with their child, thinking it's the fastest way to get him to sleep," explains Zammit. "After a while, these women often nod off."

Few moms who conk out at 9pm stay asleep until morning. Some wake up at three, having gotten a full night's sleep; others get up after a two-hour "nap" and stay up till dawn. Until her daughter turned 9 last year, Ruth Miller, 47, of New York faced this dilemma every night: She'd fall asleep on the couch in her daughter's room, book in hand, around nine. "It didn't matter if I slept two minutes or an hour, my eyes would pop open and I'd be awake for hours after that," says Miller. "The next day, I'd feel exhausted and do the same thing again."

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