We generally think of new moms as sleep-deprived zombies, but they actually get a little more shut-eye than the average American, logging 7.2 hours a night, according to a new study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Here's the catch: They aren't getting the quality of sleep they need.
"New mothers aren't really sleep-deprived," says study author Hawley Montgomery-Downs, a psychologist and the coordinator of the Behavioral Neuroscience Program at West Virginia University. "They're sleep-fragmented." Her research tracked the sleeping patterns of moms in the first four months after delivery.
Normal patterns of sleep follow definitive cycles, each lasting 90 minutes to two hours. Women who must get up for feedings (as well as those who suffer from disorders like sleep apnea, or the oft-awoken victims of partners with restless leg syndrome) may not log enough cycles to feel refreshed. When it comes to sleep, quality beats quantity. —Michael J. Breus, Ph.D.