WESTCHESTER, Ill.— It is not surprising to realize that women tend to cut their sleep needs short. Today’s moms are busier than ever before with demands from all angles: from work, from their child’s school and from home. Many times the only quiet, reflective part of the day is when an exhausted mom is climbing into bed. And even then, many lie awake at night thinking about the next day’s tasks, stressing about household finances and worrying about family issues. Further, when the kids are sleeping, moms can be tempted to begin projects that are impossible to complete when they are awake, which may lead to a delay in time-to-bed. As Mother’s Day approaches, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) reminds all mothers and all moms-to-be of the importance of a good night’s sleep to maintaining good health and optimum performance.
Susie Esther, MD, medical director of The Sleep Center at SouthPark, a part of Charlotte Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Associates, P.A., and a member of the AASM board of directors, says that one of the other challenges for today’s mothers comes from shift work schedules. Further, said Esther, more and more of today’s moms are trying to both spend time with their children and work outside of the home as well.
“This can lead to sleep deprivation and daytime sleepiness, as well as physical symptoms including deterioration in mood, more frequent infections, marked irritability and weight gain,” said Esther. “When fatigued, it is a normal phenomenon to reach for carbohydrates for ‘quick energy’, when what is really needed is some schedule adjustment allowing for better sleep. Getting enough sleep, then, is a part of a healthy diet!”
A mother of four, Dr. Esther remembers well the frustration she experienced when being told to simply “get enough rest”.
“It takes real effort to make sure that time for sleep is factored into a busy day,” said Esther. “Remember, though, that as a parent, you are modeling for the next generation how to coordinate a busy schedule and yet find time to practice healthy habits, including healthy sleep habits. This means having time to unwind before getting in bed.”
Dr. Esther referred to two studies published in recent issues of the journal SLEEP with some interesting findings about moms and sleep:
- The refusal of young children to go to bed at night can cause unnecessary stress for mothers. However, moms can take comfort in knowing that behavioral therapies are an effective means for resolving a child’s bedtime problems and night wakings.
- Following the birth of a baby, it is common for new mothers to awaken to the sound of their baby’s cry several times a night. Constantly getting out of bed to tend to their baby’s needs causes a disruption in the mother’s sleep, which may affect her physical and emotional well-being the next day. However, a behavioral-educational intervention may bring some much-needed relief to both mother and baby. By providing new moms with strategies for settling babies, teaching babies the difference between day and night, and developing healthy adult and infant sleep habits, sleep significantly improves for both mothers and babies.
On behalf of the AASM, Dr. Esther offers the following sleep hygiene tips for all moms:
- Get out of bed at the same time each morning (little ones help to ensure that this will happen).
- Make your bedroom cool and comfortable.
- Don’t stay in bed and try to sleep. If, in 10-15 minutes, you are struggling to fall asleep, get up and move to another room and do something distracting, but not stimulating. Read or perhaps listen to soft music.
- Use the bedroom for sleep and sex. This is not the place to pay bills, watch TV, eat (except breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day), etc.
- Don’t clock-watch.
- Avoid alcohol near bedtime. Avoid caffeine after noon.
- Relax before bed. This means you allow yourself time to unwind. Just as you nurture little ones to help them unwind, you need time for this yourself. Remember, you are modeling for your children. So, don’t feel guilty, you are just being an effective parent.
Not sleeping well can lead to a number of problems. Mothers who have poor nighttime sleep are more likely to have a depressed mood, attention and memory problems, excessive daytime sleepiness, more nighttime falls, and use more over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids. In addition, recent studies associate lack of sleep with serious health problems such as an increased risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Dr. Esther advises those who have trouble sleeping to see a sleep specialist at a facility accredited by the AASM.
For a listing of AASM-accredited facilities in your area, visit www.SleepCenters.org.
AASM is a professional membership organization dedicated to the advancement of sleep medicine and sleep-related research.
To arrange an interview with an AASM spokesperson, please contact Jim Arcuri, public relations coordinator, at (708) 492-0930, ext. 9317, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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