Parenting infants can be twice as stressful as working overtime with just a few hours of sleep. Parents are often disturbed by their little ones, and this leaves them angry, weak and irritated all day. This is due to the lack of a continuous slumber.
A study was conducted at Tel Aviv University's School of Psychological Sciences and published in the journal Sleep Medicine. Researchers discovered that experiencing a disturbed sleep can cause fatigue, depression and confusion, the same symptoms common to a severely sleep deprived person.
Throwing light on the doctors and parents who commonly experience disrupted sleep, Professor Avi Sadeh who directs a sleep clinic and also led the research said, "The impact of such night wakings on an individual's daytime alertness, mood, and cognitive abilities had never been studied." This is the first study to demonstrate seriously deleterious cognitive and emotional effects, she said.
The study involved 61 adults who were woken up during their sleep to check the consequences these externally induced night waking could have on them. They were all given wrist watches that detected when they were asleep and when they were awake, which monitored their sleep patterns in their own homes. The study revealed that disrupted sleep patterns were directly linked to depression, negative emotions and a short attention span. This was the outcome of the experiment after one night of interrupted sleep.
A second study on the volunteers required them to sleep just for 4 hours, which is half the duration of the normal sleep an average individual requires. The volunteers were seen facing the same problems as in the initial experiment. This shows that interrupted sleep has the same impact as getting half the recommended duration of sleep.
"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," Sadeh said.
Besides the physical effects of interrupted sleep, parents often develop feelings of anger toward their infants and then feel guilty about these negative feelings, she added.
The researchers seek to make professionals as well as the general public aware of the impacts of a detrimental sleep pattern. Michal Khan stated this awareness of the effects the disruption of sleep could have on daily functioning and mood would lead public to "consider countermeasures to minimize these consequences."