The study was conducted on student volunteers at TAU's School of Psychological Sciences. Their sleep patterns were monitored at home using wristwatch-like devices that detected when they were asleep and when they were awake. The students slept a normal eight-hour night, then experienced a night in which they were awakened four times by phone calls and told to complete a short computer task before going back to sleep after 10-15 minutes of wakefulness. The students were asked each following morning to complete certain computer tasks to assess alertness and attention, as well as to fill out questionnaires to determine their mood. The experiment showed a direct link between compromised attention, negative mood, and disrupted sleep after only one night of frequent interruptions.
Paying a high price
"Our study shows the impact of only one disrupted night," said Prof. Sadeh. "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. Besides the physical effects of interrupted sleep, parents often develop feelings of anger toward their infants and then feel guilty about these negative feelings.
"Sleep research has focused in the last 50 years on sleep deprivation, and practically ignored the impact of night-wakings, which is a pervasive phenomenon for people from many walks of life. I hope that our study will bring this to the attention of scientists and clinicians, who should recognize the price paid by individuals who have to endure frequent night-wakings."
Prof. Sadeh is currently researching interventions for infant sleep disturbances to reduce the detrimental effects of disrupted sleep on parents.
|Contact: George Hunka|
American Friends of Tel Aviv University