Moms of Twins and Sleep

Tired Out Moms

Moms of twins suffer from sleep deficit and symptoms of depression, according to a recent presentation of a study authored by Elizabeth Damato, PhD, of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Damato studied 14 mothers of twins, who were delivered an average of three and a half weeks early.

When the twins reached full-term, mothers were sleeping an average of 5.4 hours a day with over 70 percent of the moms reporting less than six hours of sleep. The sleep itself was fragmented, consisting of 15.1 periods of sleep daily, each lasting around 22.4 minutes. Not quite half of the mothers reported mild or even severe depressive symptoms.

Two Month Turning Point

Once the twins had been home for eight weeks, there was a marginal sleep gain, up to 5.6 hours daily. This sleep was less fragmented, and each episode lasted an average of 31.8 minutes at a time. The decrease in women with depressive symptoms was dramatic, having dropped to less than 25 %. Mothers reported better quality of sleep and decreased fatigue as time went on.

Dr. Damato explains that twins are often premature and need lots of care. Providing the care demanded by two premature infants puts mothers of twins at risk for sleep deprivation.  Damato says, "Recent evidence suggests that sleep deprivation and the resultant fatigue are related to the development of postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is known to have negative effects on the quality of mother-child interactions and on the child's biological and behavioral development."

No formal attempts have been made to suggest a way to combat sleep deficit and depressive symptoms in mothers of twins, but some common sense suggestions are in order:

Sleep when the baby sleeps. Don't try to clean or cook.

Let friends and family help you and sleep while they do the housework.

Limit visitors.

Be aware that the newborn biological clock is not yet mature. Babies don't begin sleeping through the night until they are at least 3 months old.

Try to develop the habit of a regular routine. That may help you and your baby gain some kind of sleep rhythm.

Try to set a relaxing atmosphere at night.

Dim lights in the evening, and let the sun into the room in the mornings.

Learn to nurse on your side, so you can rest during feedings. If you're using formula, keep bottled water and powdered formula by the bed to avoid having to walk to the kitchen.

Avoid caffeine and stimulants.

Keep the baby in your bedroom to avoid walking to the nursery during the night.

Share shifts with your partner to give you both a good block of sleep.

After you go back to work, take cat naps during lunch and work breaks.

If you think you're suffering from a sleep disorder, see your doctor.

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