Study says new moms sleep enough but not well

By Kayla Grogg

New moms do not sleep as well as they should, a recent West Virginia U. study revealed.

In a two-year study, Hawley Montgomery-Downs, assistant professor of psychology at WVU, followed about 70 new moms from around Morgantown to find out the impact their babies had on their sleep schedule.

What was found was not what she expected, Montgomery-Downs said.

It turns out new moms were getting about seven hours of sleep per night, which is healthy. The problem was their sleep was fragmented.

“In order to sleep effectively, you have to get through the complete sleep cycle,” she said. “When your sleep is constantly interrupted, it causes enormous sleep fragmentation, which affects the women’s functions in the daytime.”

Advice usually given to new moms is to sleep when the baby sleeps, said Shannon Ickes, a registered nurse with WVU Hospitals.

“Honestly, the baby will be up just about every three hours, so it is hard,” Ickes said.

In the study, Montgomery-Downs had the women wear wristbands to keep track of when they were asleep or awake, and they kept daily journals.

She said the natural consequence was that these women end up REM sleep deprived.

Not getting enough sleep can increase the risk of postpartum depression and anxiety for some women.

It can also affect their functioning or memory, she said.

In the weeks she followed new moms, Montgomery-Downs said the fragmentation took a toll on their daily functioning.

“I personally worry about these women going back to work when they aren’t able to function at a normal level,” Montgomery-Downs said. “And women with any job that requires vigilance.”

Many women feel the need to rush back to the work force as soon as six weeks after having a child, she said.

Montgomery-Downs said society should do a better job of accommodating the needs of new parents, because often the usual 12-week maternity leave isn’t enough.

She said the study gave a representation of this community because she used new moms of different socioeconomic and marital statuses.

“It may not be relevant right now, but this information is helpful to students as well, because some of them are within a few years of having families,” she said.

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