Anyone who has had a young infant will know the pain. That cry in the night that wakes you... again. The broken night’s sleep every night for what seems like eternity. It gets to a point where many new parents are numbed to the world as they are broken. So feel sorry for those going through this right now as they are probably too tired to feel sorry for themselves!
In a new study Professor Avi Sadeh and his team of researchers, who are all from Tel Aviv University’s School of Psychological Sciences, have examined the impacts of sleep that is broken numerous times during the night. They found that frequently interrupted sleep is almost as physically detrimental as not having any sleep at all.
The study, which was published in the respected journal Sleep Medicine, Professor Sadeh and his fellow researchers Michal Kahn, Shimrit Fridenson, Reut Lerer, and Yair Ben-Haim has lifted the lid on the problems surrounding frequently interrupted sleep. They found a causal link (in other words, one definitely caused the other) between interrupted sleep and decreased cognitive abilities, shorter attention spans, and generally negative moods. They believe that having an interrupted night’s sleep (over a period of 7 or 8 hours) is equivalent to having around 4 hours of consecutive sleep.
Sadeh explains that in his role at a sleep clinic when he was “advising... parents, it struck me that the role of multiple night wakings had never been systematically assessed. Many previous studies had shown an association, but none had established a causal link.”
During the research they found that “that induced night wakings, in otherwise normal individuals, clearly lead to compromised attention and negative mood.” He went on to explain that “The sleep of many parents is often disrupted by external sources such as a crying baby demanding care during the night. Doctors on call, who may receive several phone calls a night, also experience disruptions. These night wakings could be relatively short — only five to ten minutes — but they disrupt the natural sleep rhythm. The impact of such night wakings on an individual’s daytime alertness, mood, and cognitive abilities had never been studied. Our study is the first to demonstrate seriously deleterious cognitive and emotional effects.”
“Our study shows the impact of only one disrupted night. But we know that these effects accumulate and therefore the functional price new parents — who awaken three to ten times a night for months on end — pay for common infant sleep disturbance is enormous. Besides the physical effects of interrupted sleep, parents often develop feelings of anger toward their infants and then feel guilty about these negative feelings.
This is the first such study to look specifically at the phenomenon of frequently interrupted sleep and the findings are clear, it is as horrible and detrimental as any new parent will tell you. The experiment conclusively proved a direct link between compromised attention, negative mood, and disrupted sleep.
So spare a thought for those poor new parents.
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