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Study: New Parents Pay a High Price for Lost Hours of Precious Sleep

Study looks at impacts of lack of sleep in new parenthood.
Photograph by Getty Images/iStockphoto

A new study out of Tel Aviv has recently affirmed a fact we pretty much all know to be true: those lost hours of sleep during early parenthood wreak havoc on our bodies. You need only spend one night as a newbie parent to know the drill: You wake up more tired than when you went to bed, drag yourself to work with zombie-like sluggishness, and, let's be honest, are a bit of a cranky pants without your morning coffee.

But here's the surprising part about it all: Experts found that those endless nights of interrupted sleep — for emergency diaper changes, midnight feedings or other unspeakable meltdowns — are actually just as bad for you as getting next to no sleep at all. In fact, they found that one night of interrupted sleep has the same effect on the body as if you took in just four consecutive hours of sleep. So even if you've just woken up for five or 10 minutes during an eight- or nine-hour night of sleep, the body doesn't look at it that way.

How's that for some depressing news?

The study, which was led by Professor Avi Sudeh at the Tel Aviv University's School of Psychological Sciences, was actually the first of its kind. "In the process of advising these parents, it struck me that the role of multiple night wakings had never been systematically assessed," said Professor Sadeh. "Many previous studies had shown an association, but none had established a causal link. Our study demonstrates that induced night wakings, in otherwise normal individuals, clearly lead to compromised attention and negative mood."

While Sudeh's study only looks at one single night of interrupted sleep, you can only imagine what night after night means for our body – not to mention our mental and emotional states. "Besides the physical effects of interrupted sleep," explains Sudeh, "parents often develop feelings of anger toward their infants and then feel guilty about these negative feelings."

Has your sleep (or lack thereof) drastically impacted your mood or attention span since becoming a parent?

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