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Sleep-Deprived Mothers Can Suffer From Momnesia

7/26/2011 11:09:08 AM

Tags: Mothers, Sleep Deprivation, Insomnia, Momnesia, Memory Loss, Parenting, Study, Research

J.PattonMotherhood is exhausting—or so I’ve heard. Your new bundle of joy begs for your love, attention (and food) at all hours of the day, and often nights become devoted to changing diapers and heating bottles rather than sleeping.

A new study is showing that interrupted sleep can lead to more than dark circles and a cranky disposition the next day—it can also lead to memory loss. The research suggests that shortly after childbirth, “momnesia,” or a severe mental fog, sets in until the kiddos start sleeping the whole night through. Some mothers report that their children’s infancies are a blur.

Those late nights tending to your newborn can give you two
an irreplaceable bond—and a hazy memory as well.
Photo by jeanine&preston/Courtesy

In the study, lab mice were divided into two groups. One group was woken up frequently throughout the night, while the second was allowed to stay in dreamland until morning. The next day, the sleep-deprived rodents investigated old objects in the cage as if they’d never seen them before. The mice that got a good night’s rest explored new items and ignored the items they’d seen the previous day.

Although the study’s findings don’t necessarily carry over to humans, it adds yet another argument for getting adequate shut-eye each night. There are many other reasons you should get a good night’s sleep.

But first, just what counts as “a good night’s sleep?”

Experts say there really is no set number of hours you need. Rather, it depends on the individual. Your best friend may be good to go after six hours of sleep, while you may require at least nine to function properly. The National Institute of Health recommends adults get between seven and nine hours.

Whatever your magic number is, it’s important to catch those z’s each night. The experts at the National Institute of Sleep give these reasons. Short sleep duration can cause the following:

• Motor vehicle accidents. Missing one night’s sleep can impair your driving abilities much like being legally drunk can.
• Obesity. Studies have shown that sleep-deprived people turn to food for “fuel” and as a result take in more calories.
• Diabetes and heart problems.
• Psychiatric conditions, like depression and substance abuse.
• Decreased attention span and slow reaction time.
• Moodiness.

Even if you aren’t a mother, some nights it’s just hard to get to sleep. Here are some ways to get good “sleep hygiene” from the experts at

• Don’t use caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol before bed. These substances can interrupt your sleep cycle during the night.
• Go to bed and wake up around the same time each day.
• Make sure your bedroom is comfortable.
• If you can’t sleep, do not lie in bed and worry about it. Instead, get up and do something quietly for about 30 minutes, and then try to sleep again.
• Exercise daily, but not before bed.

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