When to return to work after having a baby is one of the
difficult decisions every new mums faces. Contrary to popular principle,
months isn't enough time for new mums to recover from the exhaustion of having
a kid, a new study by QUT
The study found that one in two mums were still excessively
sleepy four months after giving birth.
Dr Ashleigh Filtness, from QUT's Centre for Accident
Research and Road Safety - Queensland (CARRS-Q), examined the sleep patterns
and tiredness of postpartum mothers and found despite new mums recording stable
night sleep times at 18 weeks, they continued to report being excessively
The study followed 33 healthy new mothers who recorded their
postpartum sleep patterns in 15-minute increments during weeks 6,12 and 18.
Dr Ashleigh Filtness said that sleep disruption strongly
influences daytime function, with sleepiness recognized as a risk factor for
people performing critical tasks.
According to her, the study had significant implications for
decision-makers about when the mums should go back to work, with current
government paid parental leave entitlements ceasing at 18 weeks.
"This brings into question whether four months parental
leave is sufficient to ensure daytime sleepiness has diminished to a manageable
level before returning to work," she said
She also said that it was important when developing
regulations for parent leave entitlement that policy makers take into account
the high prevalence of excessive daytime sleepiness experienced by new mothers.
"With the birth of every baby the new mother must adjust to
the demand of parenting and one aspect of that is to remain functional while
suffering potentially severe sleep disruption.
To put this into contest, the assessment tool used to find
out new mums' sleepiness is also used by GPs to find out clinically relevant
levels of sleepiness.
If any other
otherwise healthy person presented to a doctor with this degree of sleepiness
they would likely have been given advice regarding implications for daytime
impairment including the impact on sustaining attention and decision
making," she said.
Dr Filtness said while new mums
were still waking on average twice a night to care for their babies at 6, 12,
18 weeks - their total sleep time was about 7 hours and 20 minutes.
She said Australian new mums
actually slept more than the average American workers (6h53mins).
"So while postpartum women
experienced unstable sleep, they didn't necessarily experience total reduced
sleep time," she said.
"What we found was that inevitably,
new mothers will wake in the night to d to care for their infant and the number
of times they wake remains consistent during the first 18 postpartum weeks.
Sleep disruption reduced over time
and it appears this was driven by a decrease in the time it took for new mums
to return to sleep, suggesting improved efficiency by mothers at settling their
infant for the growth of the infant's circadian rhythm.
These findings highlight the
significance of sleep quality as opposed to sleep quantity, especially during
the first 12 weeks."
"Soon-to-be mums should be aware of
the significance of their own sleep and consider how they are going to preserve
their own sleep during the first few months of caring for a baby," she said.
The CARRS-Q study was published in PLOS