When you're working and taking care of your family, there just aren't enough hours in the day for everything that needs to get done. Something has to give—usually it's sleep. But experts say that sacrificing the amount of rest you get is detrimental to your health and possibly dangerous for others as well.
Most of the time, though, sleeping isn't a choice parents get to make. Their lives, and sleep schedules, seem to be dictated by their children's reluctance to go to bed or their inability (or refusal) to sleep through the night. It is literally exhausting dealing with kids' bullshit. A new show will be debuting in the UK next week, called Bedtime Live, and it's dedicated to these exact problems, teaching parents more effective sleep training methods and helping them understand the importance of everyone in the family getting sufficient rest. The first episode will feature an experiment with a multi-million-dollar car simulator that tests the driving abilities of tired mothers against those of drunk mothers:
Three women were…tested over two-hours of ‘driving.' One of them was a well-rested 35 year-old who gets eight to nine hours sleep a night; the other, a tipsy 27 year-old, one- and-a-half times over the legal alcohol limit and the third was a harassed 38 year-old, mother-of-three who has to survive on five to six hours sleep a night…By closely filming their ‘eye droopiness' (how closed they are at any given second) they found that over a 65km stretch of motorway, the Tired Driver's blink duration was twice as long as the Drunk Driver. An average driver would have their eyes closed for less than one per cent of the time, but here, the Tired Motorist spent eight to 10 per cent of the time with her eyes closed. The video of her ‘nodding off' into ‘micro-sleeps' is genuinely shocking (not least to the woman herself who was totally unaware).
(Surely, lack of sleep would affect men as well, but this particular study was gendered, most likely because women statistically take on more familial duties, like carting kids around to their various activities, etc.) The problem, according to Hamish Jamson, the Principal Research Fellow at the Institute for Transport Studies and leader of the experiment, is that "we can measure blood alcohol but fatigue is subjective and self-regulating."
A recent study from Surrey University found that a regular lack of sleep alters the function of 711 human genes that affect "metabolism, inflammation, immunity and stress, leading to heart disease, strokes and obesity." So it would seem that if losing sleep is the cost of having both a career and a family, it's not really worth it. Meanwhile, catching more Zzz's is a luxury many of us can't afford. At this point, the definition of "having it all" might be shifting to mean "a full eight hours of sleep each night," but as a goal it seems just as elusive as ever.
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