Sleep-Deprived Mom Or Walking Dead?

Every mom has been a sleep-deprived mom at some point. Most moms can recall driving carpool looking like the walking dead. One of the first thoughts that come to mind when you mention sleep-deprived moms is likely a mom up during the night trying to comfort a crying infant. But it doesn’t stop there. Every mom with children of any age is at risk for not getting enough sleep. Each wild and chaotic day runs into the next in a never-ending cycle of tasks, chores, and concerns. A competent mom can put out fires as quickly as her children can start them. She can reach an infant who’s spitting up in a single bound while shouting to an older child on the way to shut the door he left standing open. All while mentally creating a last-minute school project and calculating how much time left to defrost that chicken for dinner.

Finally, the day comes to an end and mom can head for bed to catch up on some much-needed sleep, right? Not so, says WebMD. Moms consider the hours after the kids’ bedtime as their own time. Few would argue the fact that moms work hard and deserve a little quiet time at night to either relax or catch up on tying up some loose ends. But mothers are too often choosing to stay up later and use that precious resource of time instead of going to bed and catching up on much-needed sleep. Unfortunately, it’s often at the expense of her health.

According to WebMD, the lack of sleep can be connected to multiple types of health problems. Diabetes, sleep disorders, heart disease, virtually any health problem can be exacerbated by, if not caused by, lack of sleep. Chronic exhaustion leads to delayed responses and brain fog. Moms are constantly put in the position of having to make split-second decisions that affect her family. Being drowsy or under the disadvantage of exhaustion can cause them to make the wrong choices or even just less able to perform necessary tasks.

Sleeping mom and baby
[Photo by aleksandr hunta/Shutterstock]
Although moms with children of any age risk sleep-deprivation, it’s certainly more pronounced in new mothers. On a program aired on PBS, a study was cited to show that new mothers suffer from inadequate sleep even after 18 weeks of motherhood and argues that four months is not enough parental leave. The study was done in Australia where new moms averaged more sleep hours than American workers and American mothers. Sleep deprivation has been shown to have a heavy influence on the proficiency of performing daytime tasks, which certainly has effects on the job of mothering children.

Sleep deprivation for moms has been shown to have major impacts on mood, even so far as causing greater risk of postpartum depression. The Science of Mom mentions studies proving that lack of sleep can cause problems with not only mood but also memory and cognitive function. Another unfortunate result of sleep-deprivation is a decrease in motor skills. One of the most alarming impacts of sleep disruption has been its effects on driving. Most mothers would never dream of getting behind the wheel drunk with her children on board, but impaired sleep has been shown to cause a close comparison between the effects of driving drowsy to driving drunk.

Sleepy Mom
[Photo by Alliance/Shutterstock Images]
Most of the time, fortunately, moms report silly mistakes they make after sleepless nights more often than calamitous ones. An article in Huffington Post lists 50 hilarious things moms have done as a result of being deprived of sleep such as dropping the kids off at the gym’s daycare and then taking a nap in the car or forgetting to get the mail so many days in a row that it’s returned to the post office.

Although most of a mother’s schedule is dictated by the needs of her children, many moms actually lose sleep over a need to outperform her peers. Motherhood is competitive, as evidenced by the popularity of “life-hacks” and “DIY” instructions on sites like Pinterest that encourage moms to do better, provide better, and be better for their children. It’s not enough to be a PTA mom, many strive to be the PTA mom. There is competition on the playground, and not just for the kids. Moms share and compare on a daily basis, striving to one-up each other in every aspect of motherhood.

The good news is, sleep-deprivation can be helped. Overly-tired moms need to cut themselves some slack. Not everything has to be made from scratch, top of the line, cream of the crop motherhood behavior. Also, sleep needs should be prioritized. The kids have a bedtime, so can mom. Another thing to keep in mind is that there’s no shame in asking for help. Grandparents, and I can say this from experience, love spending more time with their grandchildren, as do aunts and uncles. So next time a loving family member offers to babysit, say “yes!” Babysitters aren’t just for special events or date nights; they can provide much-needed time set aside for sleep-deprived moms to get the rest they so desperately need.

[Photo by Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock]

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