Saturday, August 26, 2006

Mothers and Sleep

Most mothers would agree that their sleep habits are a lot different than they were before having children. Lazy weekend mornings are a thing of the past and most find fewer hours to catch some shut-eye during the week, too. Sonia Cannon, of Jackson, can relate. Erin, her 7-year-old daughter, takes up most of her time in the evenings. “During the school year, after helping Erin with homework, preparing dinner and putting her to bed, I feel like my night has just begun for relaxation,” says Cannon. “Sleep is the last thing on my mind.” Moms are not alone. According to recent studies, Americans in general are getting less sleep than ever before. Up to one-third of Americans have symptoms of insomnia; sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome are also common. Most untreated sleep disorders are associated with high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and psychiatric problems. “Most people need seven to eight hours of sleep per night,” says Dr. Michael Rack, medical director for Somnus Sleep Clinic in Flowood. “That doesn’t change. Once we reach adulthood, our sleep needs remain the same.” Rack says that one hot topic in the news lately is the relationship between sleep and obesity. “Sleep deprivation defined as less than six hours of sleep per night, has been linked to weight gain,” adds Rack. Many moms have accepted lack of sleep as a fact of life. So how do you know if you have a real problem? Dr. Alp Baran, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, says that sleep disorders are more common than we think. “I tell people all the time that snoring is not normal,” he says. “If you snore, see your doctor for treatment.” Sleeping longer on weekends can be another sign of a possible problem. A mother of two teenagers and two college kids, Teresa Adams, of Madison, runs a busy household, volunteers at church and juggles graduate school every day. “I don’t get much sleep and my body is used to it now. I know it’s not a healthy lifestyle,” she says. Cannon says, “I have to make sure all of my daughter’s needs are met on a daily basis even if I’m tired from a long day at work.” Both women admit that a cup of coffee is often the only way they can jump-start the day. It can be quite a challenge to find time for those much-lauded eight hours between careers, carpool and mealtimes. Rack says set a sleep schedule and stick to it. “Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, including weekends, is important.” Both Baran and Rack agree that avoiding caffeine and alcohol late in the day, forgoing a heavy meal or strenuous exercise before bedtime, and banishing the television from the bedroom can also help women get to sleep faster and more restfully. Rack does note, however, that exercise earlier in the day can actually contribute to a good night’s rest. Additionally, Baran reminds moms that getting kids into a good bedtime routine will help moms rest easier. Rack and Baran also suggest that married couples ask their partners what they are doing during the night — snoring, tooth grinding, etc. “Share this information with your doctor to help him/her get to the root of the problem,” Rack adds. Most sleep disorders can be easily treated with medication, counseling, behavioral therapy or a combination of treatments. So rest easy!

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