Dangers of sleep deprivation: One mum's tragedy should serve as a lesson to all

Sleepless nights as a parent are a given, but it's important to make sure that you protect your family from the dangers of sleep deprivation.

Sleep deprivation has been linked to various health problems, such as heart disease as well as an impaired immune system and cognitive function. But the dangers of sleeplessness goes beyond that for parents, as seen in the tragedy that befell one mum in Indiana, U.S.A.

Kristin Hoffman was breastfeeding her 1-month-old baby while in bed when she fell asleep. When she awoke, she found her baby had suffocated under the covers. Despite the horrific accident, she managed to share her heartbreaking story on Facebook, hoping to keep other parents from making the same mistake.

"It greatly pains me and shames me that this happened but I have to ask you all to please share and spread the word," she wrote in the post, which soon went viral worldwide.

"My precious son slipped off my breast and into the covers of my bed early Sunday morning and into heaven. The way we discovered him was a tragedy I don't want to hear happens to anyone else."

1. Feed somewhere you can stay alert

"No matter how tired you are as a mother, GET UP AND GO TO A CHAIR or somewhere you wont fall asleep when you feed your child at night," warns Hoffman in her post.

Falling asleep suddenly can happen to almost anyone, so it's important not to take this guideline for granted.

common breastfeeding problems

2. Keep yourself entertained

If you can, get your spouse, a relative or a friend to keep you company, especially if you feel like your sleepiness is out of control. If this isn't possible, listen to music that perks you up or watch something on TV that will keep you from dozing off. Be proactive when fighting sleeplessness, especially if you're a breastfeeding mum.

3. Care for yourself

Of course, getting adequate sleep and rest should be a priority. Not only will this minimize the risk of you falling asleep while breastfeeding, it will also greatly help in improving your health and overall wellbeing.

It's also important to remember La Leche League International's revised Safe Sleep Seven if you do plan to co-sleep, which should only begin after your baby turns 4 months old.

The Safe Sleep Seven

Mum should be:
1. A non-smoker
2. Sober
3. Breastfeeding

Baby should be:
4. Healthy (without any illness, such as a cold or virus)
5. Flat on his back (advised from birth to 4 months, or even 12 months)
6. Lightly dressed and unswaddled

Both mum and baby should:

7. Share a safe surface - meaning a flat surface, without any loose blankets, dents, soft objects, pillows, or other objects that could pose risks for suffocation.

Following these rules will greatly lessen the risk for sleep accidents, like SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

Once your baby is able to roll from his back to his stomach and vice versa, then you can rest assured that rolling around at night won't cause him to suffocate.

*This article first appeared on theAsianparent Philippines

sources: Kidspot.com.au, Healthline.com, Kid's Health

READ: How to protect your baby from cot death