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Are you parenting "under the influence" without realising?

A new study has shown that people who are sleep-deprived may as well be drunk. So what does this mean for mums with newborns?

Researchers in Vancouver, Canada have measured exactly how much sleep deprivation affects people in their day-to-day lives. Pat Byrne is the co-developer of Fatigue Science and she developed a test that found people who are overly tired have similar reaction times to those with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08.

Sleep is essential to maintaining health but those first few weeks and months of motherhood will always be sleep deprived. So if a new mums response times are similar to those of someone who is slightly alcohol affected it could mean two things:

1. New mums really are more resilient than they get credit for

2. Parenting isn't as hard as it seems if we can still achieve it in a state of subtle inebriation

Just kidding.

We all underestimate just how much prolonged sleep deprivation can affect our moods, our health, our lifestyle and our ability to be a good parent but we still manage. And this is why.

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The body is a fascinating thing and women are perfectly designed to be able to care for infants. We have adrenalin that keeps us chugging along even when all we want to do is lie down. We also have the ability to power nap. Studies have shown that even ten minutes can help fuel us for the next two hours.

The body builds up a sleep deficit. One or two catch-up sleeps each week can make up for three or four days of not much sleep at all.

Plus the fact our babies are just so darn cute. No matter how tired and bleary-eyed we are, our love for our children is the biggest motivation of all.

But it's still a good idea to slow down with potentially dangerous tasks.

Baby Centre recommends: "If you feel drowsy while you're driving, open the window immediately and get a blast of cold air. Pull over at a safe place and have a short nap of about 15 minutes with the doors locked, or get out for some fresh air. Driving while you're sleepy reduces your reaction time, makes you less vigilant, and affects your ability to make decisions.

"You could step out the car and stretch, or have a cold drink or a coffee to give you a boost. But remember that these are temporary measures. If you feel very tired before you set off, consider leaving the journey until you've had some rest and are more alert."

As for more tasks around the home: "Try extra hard to concentrate and take extra care. Maybe you've knocked over the milk and splashed yourself with boiling water while making a cup of tea. Or perhaps you've dropped yet another glass while trying to get some water.

"Try to slow down. Even the smallest task needs your concentration when you’re sleep deprived. Focus on what you're doing.

"Accept that some things won’t get done. Clothes in the laundry basket don’t all have to be ironed. You don’t have to vacuum as often as you used to."

How did you cope with those first few weeks and months of motherhood?

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