Q I have been taking a two-hour nap every afternoon since March. I have two children, and the second, now two-and-a-half, was hard work. She only began sleeping the night through about six months ago. I have started napping when she does every afternoon. I also sleep seven-ish hours at night. I feel entitled to it as I had no sleep for 18 months. Am I damaging my health by sleeping so much?
A You are certainly not damaging your health by sleeping for two hours during the day. In many countries around the world, the 'siesta' is considered normal. I assume you do not have any underlying medical conditions such as multiple sclerosis or fibromyalgia and are not on any medication that might cause sedation/taking any substances of abuse. Do you sleep through the night without much disturbance? If you find your night sleep is still broken by your other young child, this might explain the need for your siesta.
Having two young children is a serious drain on your batteries. As they get older and more independent, you might be less exhausted and find more down time for yourself. Advanced maternal age also plays a part, as younger mothers have more energy.
When you add up the two hours during the day with a full seven hours at night, it seems like a lot of sleep, but the range of normal in an adult is actually seven to nine hours. I accept that you may not have needed as much sleep prior to having your two children and you will, most likely, go back towards your baseline, as your children grow up. A sufficient amount of sleep is needed to allow good physical and mental health, and preserve good cognitive and immune system function. Smart watches can give a good indication of the quality of your sleep.
You could also inform yourself about a few specific sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), restless leg syndrome (RLS) or chronic insomnia.
That brings me on to discussing your mental health. Is there a family or personal history of a mood disorder? You may have mild-to-moderate depression. Part of the definition of depression includes a pervasive low mood, most of the day, every day for at least two weeks. Other symptoms include a loss of interest in most or all activities, insomnia (too little sleep) or hypersomnia (too much sleep), significant weight loss or weight gain (5pc change within one month), fatigue and poor concentration.
Being a mother and housewife is often the most under-valued and under-appreciated job in the world. Take time to look after yourself, because without you everything falls apart for your family.
Lastly, if you have not attended your GP for a routine set of blood tests in the past few months or years, then you really should.
Having normal kidney, liver and thyroid function as well as normal haemoglobin (red blood cell count), white blood cell count, iron stores and vitamin B12 levels will provide you with a certain level of reassurance that this daytime nap is temporary and explained by the high energy needs of your two young children.
If you feel it is necessary, your doctor can consider other rare sleep, psychiatric or neurological disorders.
⬤ Dr Jennifer Grant is a GP with the Beacon HealthCheck
Health & Living