Tuesday, August 31, 2010

New Mothers Sleep Plenty, Wake Often

No one ever says they expect to catch up on their sleep after having a kid. Somehow, mothers actually get plenty of rest – a full seven hours, according to new findings. Only those hours are sabotaged by waking to care for a sleepless infant for a total of two hours per night.

New mothers’ total sleep time surprised researchers at the University of West Virginia. The results of the study were published in the August issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Participants wore sleep-monitoring devices on their wrists throughout much of the postpartum period. A group of 50 mothers were monitored in weeks 2-13. Another 24 new moms wore wrist actigraphs between the 9th and 16th weeks.

The total sleep time did not change through the later weeks, but the interruptions became less frequent.

Most mothers reported feeling fatigued during the daytime, despite getting more than the recommended amount of total sleep. Repeat overnight disruptions may prevent them completing full sleep cycles.

Few mothers chose to nap to fight off daytime fatigue. Naps that last less than 90 minutes won’t fully make up for lost REM sleep but may help mothers feel better.

In an interview with Reuters Health, head researcher Dr. Hawley E. Montgomery-Downs recommended moms can make up for lost sleep by napping when their baby naps. She also suggested couples who breastfeed can split the overnight duties by having milk ready in bottles.

Parents may also want to take a close look at their parental style. Last week the Sleep Education Blog reported infants wake less often when their parents are warm and emotionally available.

Always make sleep a priority. After all, couples who sleep well while caring for an infant are likely to last.

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