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Tuesday, 2 April, 2002, 23:03 GMT 00:03 UK
Modern mums suffer sleep deprivation
Motherhood can be extremely stressful
Women are finding it extremely difficult to juggle the demands of motherhood and career, a survey has found.

The impact appears to be greatest on women who leave it until their late 30s to start a family.

A poll by Mother and Baby magazine has found that many are struggling to cope on five hours sleep a night.

The consequent sleep deprivation is playing havoc with their relationships and working lives.

The survey found:

  • 56% of working mothers said weariness left them in a "state of despair"
  • 82% admitted a lack of sleep affected their performance at work
  • 88% felt fed up, exhausted and pulled in too many directions
  • 70% said their tiredness was so debilitating they felt unable to function properly
  • 61% said their boss was not understanding
Tiredness also put the mother's relationship with their child under strain - 55% said lack of sleep made them irritated with their baby.

Relationship problems

The survey found mums only got an average of four hours sleep a night during the first four months of their baby's life - and only five hours a night once the child had reached 18 months.

The majority of mums in the UK today suffer from chronic sleep deprivation which affects every area of their lives

Dani Zur
Eight out of 10 mothers with a baby aged up to two said a lack of sleep put their partnership under immense strain and caused rows.

Only 31% of fathers woke up if their baby cried, even if both parents worked full-time, according to the survey.

Two-thirds of mothers said lack of sleep had put them completely off sex (66%) and three-quarters resorted to putting the baby into their own bed or sleeping in the baby's room in a bid to get some rest (74%).

The highest level of problems were reported among women over the age of 35.

Nine out of 10 said their relationship had been badly affected, 70% said they had gone off sex and 92% admitted "feeling wrecked" at work.

Complex demands

Dani Zur, editor of Mother and Baby Magazine, urged women to take as much maternity leave as they could possibly afford before getting back to work.

She said: "The majority of mums in the UK today suffer from chronic sleep deprivation which affects every area of their lives.

"Just looking after a baby or young child is enough to bring you to your knees, but most mums also have to meet the complicated demands of their partner, extended family and employer too.

"Trying to do all this on less than four hours sleep a night leaves mums feeling desperate, angry and resentful. Older mums simply don't have the same energy levels as those in their twenties.

"Cherie Blair copes well with later motherhood because she has an army of people to help her.

"She's anything but the norm. Britain's mothers need to remember this and stop beating themselves up about their own achievements."

The survey questioned 1,000 UK mothers with an average age of 30 years.

The BBC's Nicola Carslaw
"Modern motherhood leaves women in a state of despair"

Sleep deprived
Are modern mums getting a rough deal?

Alison Muirhead suffered from sleep deprivation after failing to get her daughter Holly to bed down for the night.
Baby blues

See also:

13 Mar 01 | Health
Sleepless nights lay new mums low
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