The Importance of Sleep
The effect of fragmented sleep goes beyond a tired body -- it also affects how you think and cope. With this kind of sleep deprivation, you're not just shortchanged on deep sleep; you're also getting less dream sleep, says Lauren Broch, PhD, director of education and training at the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center of New York-Presbyterian Hospital.
Dreams provide more than fodder for the next day's musings. In fact, they play a surprisingly important role in our ability to think clearly. During REM sleep, the brain sorts memories and processes the day's events, says Margaret Moline, PhD, director of the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center. Lack of REM sleep can cause memory lapses and make tasks requiring higher cognitive functioning more difficult, leaving you feeling scattered and foggy (as in, "Did I just change a diaper?"). For moms, this makes a range of daily activities problematic -- from balancing the checkbook to conjuring up the patience to deal with a cranky toddler. Indeed, it's much harder to use techniques such as distraction or humor (instead of yelling) when you're exhausted.