To moms living with sleep deprivation, you’re not alone


by David Luterman, MD

May 9, 2016

Would you consider yourself among the most sleep-deprived in America?

According to a recent survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, those catching the least amount of shut-eye are single moms. The report found that 44 percent of single moms living with children under the age of 18 get less than the recommended seven hours of sleep each night.

To me, this is a no-brainer. All you have to do is ask the moms, and they’ll tell you, they consider sleep a luxury. But I’d put all parents in this category – married moms, dads – anyone who has children under the age of 18. So many things occupy their time. Many work eight hours per day, take two hours commute and then shuttle young ones to extracurricular activities. There’s a limited amount of time in the day and sleep tends to get squeezed out.

When I was a first year resident, my wife and I had twins. She’d take the first feeding and I’d take the second. It was a 45 minute feeding per child. What can you do? The best advice I can give is to try and arrange your schedule so that you can get seven hours of straight sleep. Let go of some of those tasks that can wait and make sleep a priority. Some parents have a harder time with this than others, but the reality is you let go or you stay sleep deprived. Normal sleep should be seven to nine hours per night. If you get less than seven hours of sleep, you’re considered under-slept.

You should arrange the family’s schedule as a whole. For good sleep to happen regularly, it has to become a priority for the entire family. Children need more sleep than adults and those in high school need nine to 10 hours. If you can get the kids to sleep at a regular time and get them on a regimented schedule, you’re more likely to have a regimented schedule, too.

For a better night’s rest, practice good sleep hygiene:

  • Go to sleep when you feel sleepy. If you’re getting enough sleep, you should fall asleep easily and wake refreshed.
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same times each day. If you go to sleep later on weekends, make sure you wake up later.
  • Keep your room cool, dark and quiet. Leave behind gadgets like phones and tablets. Looking at lit screens is enough to signal the brain that it’s time to stay awake.
  • Use your bedroom strictly for sleeping.
  • If you need a nap, short naps are better than long ones. It’s hard to wake up after getting into a deep sleep.
  • If you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, your doctor might recommend or prescribe medication that can help.

I was recently quoted in a Dallas Child Magazine article focusing on what sleep deprivation does to moms. If you’re a young mom suffering from a lack of sleep, try these seven expert sleep tips.

About the Author

Dr. David Luterman is the head of the department of sleep medicine and medical director of the Sleep Center at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas. He is board certified in sleep medicine, pulmonary disease and internal medicine. He is a Fellow of the American College of Chest Physicians and a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the sleep Research Society, and the American Thoracic Society. He has been listed as a “Best Doctor in Dallas” by D Magazine numerous times.

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