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Dr. Mark Moore, best-selling author of the gender selection book Baby Girl or Baby Boy--Choose the Sex of Your Child, answers readers' questions on pregnancy and pediatrics.
New Babies and Parent Sleep Deprivation--Parenting 102
There's a new TV program about Surgical interns who lead exciting but tired lives--they stay up 48 hours straight yet continue to function. Enamored with their driven hectic schedules but don’t want to go to medical school? Have a baby.
Think about all the new information that must be learned about a baby's feeding, diet and health (or lack of it--they get coughs, colds, flu, diarrhea, vomiting, spit ups, belly pain, colic, wheezing, teething pain.)–it’s just the beginning. The hard part is the effect on the parents sleep cycle. The baby awakens to feed every two hours for six to twelve weeks, some babies even longer. I’ve known some to take a year to find a good sleep pattern.
Medical students are trained to wake at a moments notice in the middle of the night, make quick decisions while half asleep, then fall back to sleep in seconds. 6 AM starts another day.
The layperson can be surprised by this demand on their sleep cycle. Tired sleepless people are crabbier and less participatory. They are more accident prone and take longer to accomplish simple routine tasks. Sleep deprivation can cause a host of other problems including inability to concentrate, think and drive. It can augment the sedative effects of certain medications and alcohol. Depression and sleep disorders have a high rate of association. Sleep deprivation causes mood swings, irritability and reduces athletic coordination.
Driving is an especially important topic when it comes to sleep deprivation and drowsiness. In a previous column, I discussed accidents as one of the major causes of death and disability. The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) cites that 1 in 4 persons has fallen asleep while driving. They estimate that sleep deprivation and drowsiness may be a factor in over 25,000 crashes with 1500 fatalities each year. Driving drowsy has been shown to be almost or as dangerous as drunk driving.
The good thing about sleep deprivation-- the cure is easy. Recognize the problem and address it. Quickie naps are a start. Early to bed once or twice a week can help you catch up, too. If you can, hire a sitter on occasion for some quiet time. Baby sleep patterns will often smooth out as they incorporate more solid foods into their diets and soon the late night awakenings will be a only a distant memory. This is dedicated to all new parents for your devotion to your babies night-time feeding schedules. You have what it takes to survive medical internship!
Readers may send questions to our email address. This column is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional or medical advice.
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