It is well known that sleep deprivation leads to weight gain. But a new study shows that people who get adequate sleep might actually lose weight as they slumber–especially new mothers. Mothers who get five hours sleep or less a day at baby’s sixth month of life are three times more likely than women getting more rest (seven hours or more) to keep on their extra weight by one year.

The study conducted at Harvard Medical School and published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, looked at 940 women and found that the least rested mothers kept on 11 lbs. more than their well rested counterparts. According to Erica Gunderson, one of the study’s researchers, “We’ve known for some time that sleep deprivation is associated with weight gain and obesity in the general population, but this study shows that getting enough sleep–even just two hours more–may be as important as a healthy diet and exercise for new mothers to return to their pre-pregnancy weight.”

“Yeah, right!”, I can hear the Mommy and Me consortium hollering, “Easier said than done.” I know. That’s the conundrum all new mothers must face. I’ve watched my wife struggle with it for 18 months now–balancing sleep and caring for a child who is on her own schedule. This has been my suggestion: If baby is keeping you up throughout the night, then you just have to take catnaps during the day. My daughter has no problem sleeping for a couple of hours midday, and so I say take full advantage.

Most new mothers have a valid fear that baby won’t adopt a “normal” schedule if they let them sleep for extended periods during the day, but I think that it will happen naturally on its own. If baby nurses, then it’s probably a lot harder on Mama, I think, because many things can stir baby from her sleep; and nothing like the comfort of a warm booby to get baby through the night (I certainly can understand that). But, if you follow the old adage to “catch it when you can”, then at least you’ll be getting your seven to eight hours, despite it being broken up into shifts. I’m pretty convinced that your child will figure it out eventually and will want to sleep through the night himself sooner or later.

So, if you’re a new mother, think about your health and how important sleep is to it. Nobody benefits by your being sleep deprived–not you, not your child. And think about how good you’ll feel once your release that extra baby weight. Slim, trim and rested–a beautiful combination.

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