Two weeks after my second daughter, Norah, was born, instead of rejoining my husband in bed after her 2 a.m. feeding, I sent a mass e-mail to my friends, attaching a few candid shots of my new baby. The next day my friend Rosemary responded, "Thank you for the beautiful pics, but what are you doing up at 3 a.m.? Get some sleep!"
She was right, of course. But a combination of euphoria and nervous energy made it hard for me to settle down. Why bother going back to bed when the baby might be screaming to be fed in five minutes? Instead, I'd get a sudden urge to tackle my to-do list. Then I'd be a walking zombie the next day -- irritable, lethargic, unable to focus on the most mundane task.
Too-Little Shut-Eye Can Be Dangerous
Getting the sleep you need during those first few months is vital not only for your sanity but for your safety as well. Sandi Duverneuil, a mother of two in Bethesda, Maryland, learned this the hard way when she backed into a concrete pillar in the parking lot of her 3-month-old's pediatrician's office. "I just scratched the car, but it made me realize that five hours a night wasn't enough," says Duverneuil.
According to a study conducted by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center, people who sleep less than five hours per day are four to five times more likely to be involved in a sleep-related crash.