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Bad News for New Moms: Could Interrupted Sleep Be As Bad As No Sleep At All?

Written on July 18, 2014 at 1:52 pm , by

When groggy mornings and frantic coffee runs become staples in your daily routine, followed by nights of constant wake-up calls to change diapers or give feedings, it’s probably time to re-evaluate your sleep patterns. Or just say hello to motherhood with a newborn. While we know not sleeping well negatively affects your mood (there’s a reason these signs exist) and brain’s ability to function, what’s more alarming is that a new study found that several nights of interrupted sleep might be just as harmful as not getting any.

Before you panic, moms, keep reading. We spoke with clinical psychologist Michael Breus, Ph.D., who says that although disrupted sleep definitely has an effect on you the next day, it’s not going to ruin your life in the long run.

“Some sleep is still better than no sleep, but you don’t want to keep it up on a regular basis,” he says. “If you get woken up one, two, three times a night, well, that’s actually fairly normal. If you get woken up six or eight times a night, are you going to wake up feeling refreshed? Probably not.”

So what’s a parent to do? Breus recommends alternating on-call days with your partner. Designate Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to waking up when baby does, but let hubby take the reigns on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Or if you wake up with the sunrise and he’s awake well past sunset, compromise that way. “I’m more of an early bird and my wife is more of a night owl, so even on the nights when it might’ve been my turn to be on call, she’ll tend to the baby so I can go to bed early.” Creating a schedule that plays on each others’ more wakeful hours will provide you both with happier mornings, so try a few options to figure out what works best for everyone.

Regardless of your parent status (non-existent or otherwise), Breus says maximizing sleep begins with daily exercise. If you find that exercise really revs your engine, make sure your workout is done at least four hours before bedtime. Otherwise, two hours prior is your cutoff. But if you’re still lacking serious mojo in the daylight, make sure sleepiness isn’t being confused with muscle fatigue. “Sleepiness is, ‘I can’t keep my eyes open.’ Fatigue is, ‘Ugh, I just want to lie down because everything hurts,’” explains Breus. If fatigue is what you’re feeling, take a rest day so you can jump back in with a full bout of energy.

And last but not least, try adding banana tea to your nightly routine. “Bananas themselves have a large amount of magnesium in them,” explains Breus. Chop the top and bottom off of a banana and toss it (peel included – there’s about 3x more magnesium in there) into 2.5 cups of boiling water for 3 or 4 minutes. “You can put a little honey or cinnamon in it,” he says. “It’s quite delicious and it’s literally like taking a sleeping pill.” We know what we’re drinking tonight!

Photo by Sara Forrest

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