Advertisement
Icon WebMD Expert Blogs

Sleep Well

with Michael Breus, PhD, ABSM

Sleep disorders include a range of problems -- from insomnia to narcolepsy -- and affect millions of Americans. Dr. Michael Breus shares information and advice on sleep disorder and insomnia treatments and causes.

Important:

The opinions expressed in WebMD User-generated content areas like communities, review, ratings, or blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have... Expand

The opinions expressed in WebMD User-generated content areas like communities, reviews, ratings, or blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. User-generated content areas are not reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance, objectivity, or any other reason except for compliance with our Terms and Conditions. Some of these opinions may contain information about treatments or uses of drug products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment.

Do not consider WebMD User-generated content as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your care plan or treatment. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified health care provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.

Hide

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Quality Vs. Quantity Sleep for New Moms

sleepy mom and baby

Photodisc

It seems impossible: Could new mothers really get the same amount of sleep as usual?

That’s what one report seems to be saying… until you dig a little deeper (so don’t throw tomatoes at me yet, new moms).

According to a new study that looked at the sleep life of postpartum mothers from the birth of the babies until they were four months old, new moms may often get a decent amount of sleep — an average of 7.2 hours to be exact — but here’s the catch: they don’t get the quality of sleep they really need.

A little more than seven hours of sleep is actually better than average for most Americans, but the sleep these new moms were getting is not the kind of sleep that makes you feel refreshed and “well-rested” the next day. The study revealed, not to my surprise, that new moms experienced highly fragmented sleep that steals much-needed deep sleep. In fact, their sleep patterns mimic those who suffer from sleep disorders like sleep apnea, where you experience enough hours asleep but you don’t spend enough hours in restorative sleep.

How is this possible? It’s simple: patterns of sleep follow definitive cycles, each one lasting about 90 minutes to two hours. A new mom whose sleep is disrupted during the night may not get enough full cycles of sleep, if she gets any at all.

The old adage of quality trumps quantity rings true. You’re likely better off getting high-quality sleep for 6.5 hours than low-quality sleep for a longer period of time. This may explain why some people are okay on fewer hours of sleep than average. If you can log lots of restorative sleep in a shorter amount of time, you’re golden. Few, however, have this ability. The vast majority of us really need 7 to 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

And if you’re a new mom whose baby, even at one year, makes it a challenge to get a full night of uninterrupted sleep, there are some solutions to consider:

  • Nap for a full cycle: a 20-minute power nap might not do much if you’re severely deprived of quality sleep. You would do well to try and get a full cycle of sleep into a nap, which means about 90 minutes. If your baby sleeps for that long in one of his or her siestas during the day, don’t catch up on your work at that time — take a nap too!
  • Be mindful of your mood: If you feel like those postpartum blues are getting worse, speak with your doctor. Sleep deprivation can exacerbate the stress a new mom’s body goes through after giving birth. Hormonal changes add to the challenges. And all of these can further make for troubled sleep.
  • Teach your partner so you can skip a feeding: I’ve mentioned this before and it bears repeating because I don’t see this happening enough. It’s not hard to teach your partner how to tend to your baby’s needs in the middle of the night so you can skip a feeding and sleep through it. Even moms who are exclusively breastfeeding can pump and have a bottle ready to go.
  • Ask for help: Don’t be shy about asking for help from family and friends. A long afternoon nap while someone else takes care of your baby may be worth more than you ever imagined.

As an aside: For many parents, the onset of the new school year is like New Year’s in children’s lives. Now that summer has set with Labor Day, it’s a great time to renew commitments to health. Which, of course, entails a pledge to sleep better. The kids are back on a schedule. Get back to a sleep schedule too. It probably won’t be the same one as your kids’, but it’ll help you to be the best, most refreshed parent (dare I say patient?) you can be.

Sweet Dreams,

Michael J. Breus, PhD
The Sleep Doctor™
www.thesleepdoctor.com

Have you been deprived of quality sleep? How did you solve the problem? Post your responses on the Sleep Disorders Community.

Posted by: Michael Breus, PhD, ABSM at 7:42 am

Comments

Leave a comment

Subscribe & Stay Informed

Sleep Well

Stop tossing and turning. Get the latest diet and exercise tips, treatments and research about better sleep from WebMD.

Archives

WebMD Health News