Is interrupted sleep as bad as no sleep at all?

Woken up

Sleep is a major indicator of one’s overall health and is often linked to productivity, mood and the ability to manage stress. The consequences of minimal sleep loss vary from having difficulty concentrating, to feeling drowsy or irritable throughout the entire day (check out our blog post on the effects of baby not sleeping). Although it is a well-known fact that a good night’s rest has a rejuvenating effect on our frame of mind and is essential to leading a healthy life, less emphasis has been placed on the quality of sleep hours until recently. New findings indicate that waking up frequently during the night has the same outcome as getting less hours of rest.

As a new parent, it can be downright impossible to give your body the time-out it requires when you have to constantly tend to your newborn. A recent study, cited in the journal Sleep Medicine, revealed that about 7500 out of 30000 parents wake up two times during the night to care for their children. The research involved 11 countries and recorded that an additional 19.5% of the parents accounted for at least three wakings on average.

The effects of interrupted sleep have been investigated by scientists at the Tel Aviv University in Israel and have been linked to moodiness, fatigue and inability to cope with stress or carry out tasks. 58 young adults were divided into two groups and monitored in their homes, with sleep monitors strapped to their wrists in order to monitor wakefulness and sleep. The volunteers in the first group got four hours of sleep; the rest slept for eight hours but were repeatedly awoken by a telephone and had to perform certain computer tasks of at least 10 minutes before returning to bed. The participants were asked to complete questionnaires before going to sleep and after waking up in the morning and the effects were assessed using various mood and performance tests. The study revealed that these interruptions have a negative impact on concentration, disposition and cognitive abilities, as they disrupt the circadian rhythm.

Avi Sadeh, a professor who runs the sleep clinic at the university, claims that their study covers a relatively new area of investigation and that further research is necessary. However, the close link between interrupted sleep and increased despondency is clear. In fact, the results indicate that the effects of poor-quality sleep are identical to those of sleep restriction to four hours per night, as the volunteers in both groups presented similar symptoms.

So if you’re finding it tough having interrupted sleep, you’re not alone – all of the science backs up that it is difficult and takes a toll on parents.

The effects of interrupted sleep are sometimes not understood by non parents. It’s important to cut yourself some slack when you’ve had a rough night and not put too much pressure on yourself to be an “uber” Mummy. If it feels tough, it’s because it is. Waking up repeatedly during the night to care for our little one can make it hard to do even simple every day tasks and the science backs this up!

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All the best

Jo

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