Sleep-Deprived New Parents Aren’t Imagining Things


A comical take on new baby sleeplessness highlights a new Australian study that puts numbers to post-baby sleepiness. Blogger Laura Sanders calls her own experience “a haze of extreme sleep deprivation” that Ashleigh Filtness of Queensland University of Technology in Australia found continued 4.5 months after babies are born.


“The problem wasn’t that the women weren’t getting enough total sleep,” writes Sanders. “On average, they were pulling down about seven hours and 20 minutes of sleep a night. The trouble was that this sleep didn’t happen in a single, beautiful block of nighttime bliss. Night wakings splintered these women’s sleep into shards.”


Women kept detailed sleep logs in the sixth, twelfth and eighteenth weeks after their baby’s birth. The researchers believed that to ask for logs in the immediate weeks following birth would be unethical. As time went by, sleep did improve, the logs showed.


“A measure called the sleep disturbance index, which is time spent awake after first going to bed relative to the total sleep time, lessened as the weeks progressed,” writes Sanders. “That’s progress. But at 18 weeks, over half of the women still reported excessive daytime sleepiness, identified by a score of 12 or higher on the Epworth Sleepiness Scale, the researchers found.”


In addition to being unpleasant, this pernicious drowsiness might become dangerous if, say, a new mother has to drive every day for her job. The authors write that their study titled “Longitudinal Change in Sleep and Daytime Sleepiness in Postpartum Women” might be useful in crafting leave policies for parents.


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