The Sleepy-Mama Syndrome

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The Sleepy-Mama Syndrome is a term I made up after treating a patient who’s a single mother of two, works full time, takes online classes at night and is, unsurprisingly, chronically tired. We laughed about how “it just is what it is right now.” But maybe things can be different.

If you know me or read the first book, you know I’m the self-appointed Nap Queen. My affinity for napping comes naturally: my father lies down for a little shuteye every day around 2 or 3pm, and wakes refreshed and ready to enjoy the rest of the day. Obviously, I can’t snooze during the week because I’m at work, but hallelujah for the weekend! When the kids go down, I go down. I’m trying to pass that nap-gene to them so they’ll be good sleepers. Thankfully, napping doesn’t affect my ability to sleep at night. Unfortunately, my hubby can’t say the same. If he tries to sneak a nap in, he’s up all night and tired the next day.

So, this is what we reviewed with my patient: She said she wakes up at 5am every day. Most days, she naps from 11am to 1pm (I didn’t ask her how she’s able to do this and work, but I will next time), gets home for dinner around 5-6pm and does homework in her bed till midnight. When she finally dozes off, she awakens again at 2am, then fights to get back to sleep until 5am. Of course, she’s fatigued the next day.

She has a history of hypothyroidism, but her levels are well-controlled, so we can’t blame that. Thus, I advised her to stop taking those naps for a while. She gasped and swooned at this, but I informed her that those daily naps are likely the reason she’s chronically tired. Succumbing to siesta isn’t beneficial to everyone. As I mentioned earlier, napping during the day leads to minimal sleep or no sleep at all for my husband. We also discussed turning off her electronics—TV, phone, computer—at least 1-2 hours before sleeping. Too much light causes over stimulation of the eyes and brain and can keep you up. Exercise is very important, and she wasn’t really doing any. At least 2-3 times weekly, of at least 30 minutes is helpful for many reasons. We reviewed the rest of her medications, looking for diuretics that might keep her in the bathroom at night, or antidepressants that might keep up hyped up at night. We discussed her caffeine intake, making sure she didn’t have any coffee or sweet tea after dinner.

Lastly and most importantly, we reviewed her stress level. She mentioned more stress than usual at work and dealing with unruly (her words, not mine) teenagers at home. We had to figure out a way to relax. Along with exercise, I suggested journaling and meditation/prayer. Over the counter, she could add some melatonin, which is a natural supplement we all have in the blood stream. It peaks in the body as bedtime approaches, so taking a little additional dose is helpful.

As mothers, we’ll all have the Sleepy-Mama Syndrome at some point, some more chronically than others, but there are ways to manage the symptoms. Make sure you’re aware of them!

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