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Sleep deprivation and baby ATMs.

By Alice Bradley

Sleep has again made the headlines, as a new study finds that women don’t get enough, but want more. (Men, apparently, are sleeping all the time. Those well-rested jerks.) The culprits are the usual: children, poor sleep habits, stress, and spouses demanding another night of hot, relentless marital privilege. (That’s what we call it at our house.) Most women spend their pre-sleep hours watching television or working on the computer, which is exactly wrong: to ensure a good night’s sleep, according to the experts, you should dim the lights and engage in calming activities. (Says the writer who’s frantically typing away at 11 p.m.)
But seriously, now. Sleep problems beget mood dysfunction, which can cause sleep problems, and do you see where this is going? Into a mucky downward spiral of misery and insomnia. So treat sleep like it’s your (other) job, dear readers, because in many ways it is. In fact, lack of sleep can affect your waking hours in surprising ways, as another study brings to light. This one studied sleep deprivation and moral judgment. Subjects were deprived of sleep and then given various hypothetical dilemmas to solve. After being awake for 53 hours, it took the study subjects longer to judge the dilemmas that had an emotional, personal aspect to them. Results depended on the subject’s baseline “emotional intelligence”–the lower their e.i., the more their judgment was slowed by lack of sleep. Still, though, I like to think of myself as fairly emotionally savvy—if you’ve got that liquid stuff coming from your eyes, I totally know what’s going on—and yet I know that my own moral compass was spinning wildly a few days into my infant son’s all-night feeding-and-screaming marathons. Wait, so I shouldn’t leave him on the stoop? Or I shouldn’t not leave him on the stoop?
Leaving babies on stoops, of course, is no laughing matter (I forgot that it wasn’t, because of this damned sleep deprivation). Babies are abandoned regularly in the U.S., and the risk of homicide on the first day of life is 10 times greater than the rate during any other time of life
It’s an appalling statistic, to be sure. And it’s no less appalling because the perpetrators of these crimes are, generally, victims in their own right: terrified young girls, usually ones who have been able to hide their pregnancies, who dump their babies and run, hoping no one will find out.
To help curb this epidemic of baby abandonment (and worse), safe surrender laws have been enacted over the past decade in 47 states. The safe surrender law enables parents to turn children over to authorities without facing charges of abandonment.
Sounds simple, right? In most states, however, the baby must be checked for signs of child abuse, during which time the mother has to be present. A necessary step, perhaps, but one that could possibly frighten away the girls whose babies most need saving. (For more information on safe havens, visit the National Save Haven Alliance.)
As always, they do it better in Europe. So-called “foundling wheels,” where mothers could place babies and skedaddle before anyone cross-examined them, were used for centuries throughout Europe. And recently a modern-day version of the foundling wheel has opened up at a hospital in Rome: an ATM-like portal allows mothers to drop off their babies. The person dropping off the baby simply lifts a glass hatch; inside is a heated crib. Sensors alert doctors that a baby is waiting. And then the baby is awarded a lifetime supply of designer shoes and gelato.
Ah, if only.
And now, here are some other news items of interest:
Not Viagra, we hope: Many Children Prescribed Adults-Only Meds
It just figures: Women at Increased Risk of HIV from Circumcision
Well, fine, then: No Baby Pictures, Please
Hillary wants YOU… to vote for her: Clinton eyes new target with ‘women for Hillary’ campaign

Alice Bradley
About the Author

Alice Bradley

Alice Bradley was a regular contributor to Alpha Mom, writing about current events as they related to parenting. You can read about her daily life at her personal blog, Finslippy.


Alice Bradley was a regular contributor to Alpha Mom, writing about current events as they related to parenting. You can read about her daily life at her personal blog, Finslippy.

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Lisa Milton

I knew there was some scientific reason I made my kids forge for their own cereal while I lounged about this morning – I need my sleep lest I lose my way.
I have to admit that while I was taking a large dose of prednisone (ooh, steroid joy) last year and sleepless for months on end, my rules got loosey goosey for awhile. I just didn’t have the energy it takes to be neurotic. Still I am not sure what’s worse – bad judgment or crazy.
Thanks for all the links. Love both your sites.


Great column, as usual. The HIV link goes to the wrong article. Could you update?

slouching mom

OK, is it just me, or does anyone else find the “ATM-like portal” in the Rome hospital, while admirable, a little too 21st century? I like the sound of the foundling wheel better; it seems, I don’t know, just a bit more cozy, if you have to adandon your infant.


An amusing line in the sleep study story:
“It is not known whether these findings apply to civilians.”
I had a psychic premonition months and months ago Hilary will be president. Yet, I doubt the woman thing is going to work. I think it’s one of those tactical errors that will require backpedaling–and Team Hilary is going to be awash in backpedaling throughout the campaign. Yet, my psychic power says she will win so I dunno.
Thanks for giving me a chance to practice my pundit-speak!


I loved the baby pictures article. Now I’m going to go pick the baby off my stoop and drop him off in some nice incubator someplace… Pfizer’s down the road, I bet they have some incubators of some sort. I’ll just push out the test tubes and shove in the baby…
I think I need a nap.