Sleep-Deprived New Moms May Pose a Danger Behind the Wheel

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Many mothers of newborns feel like they're living in a "mental haze," study shows. Credit: ThiagoMartins, Flickr

Driving while overtired can be just as dangerous as driving drunk, Australian researchers warn new mothers.

A study released last week of mothers of newborns reveals that many felt as though they were living in a "mental haze," according to an article in Australia's Whitsunday Times.

The Queensland University of Technology study was looking at the impact of postpartum fatigue on the everyday functioning of new mothers.

The study found lifestyle changes, interrupted sleep, lack of routine and high levels of unpredictability led to fatigue, which could at times be overwhelming, the newspaper reports.

"To put the danger of fatigue into some sort of perspective -- if someone is awake for 17 hours they have a driving performance similar to that of a person with a blood alcohol level of 0.05 percent," Dr. Kerry Armstrong tells the paper.
"And if they have been awake for 24 hours it is 0.1 percent, or two times the legal driving limit."
Alarmingly, most of the 24 mothers in the study reported having recent "near misses" on the road, Armstrong says.

The study also contradicted earlier studies that claimed postpartum fatigue usually subsides after six weeks. Armstrong's study indicates the tiredness can last up to 12 weeks.

Have you ever driven in a "mental haze?"

Related: Sleep Difficulties - What Causes Fatigue: Chronic Fatigue

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.