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Everyone knows that new moms get very little sleep. Between constant feeding sessions, dealing with the euphoria and anxious energies and non-stop diaper changes of early parenthood, newbie mothers definitely experience a sleep deficit.

But new research from Washington University in St. Louis says that lack of sleep actually starts before the infant arrives because pregnant moms start waking up earlier. According to the study, the daily schedule in pregnant women and mice shifts a few hours forward during the first trimester. Perhaps our bodies are preparing us for what is to come.

"What happens in early pregnancy is that they shift their total activity to earlier in the day," says Erik Herzog, professor of biology in Arts & Sciences and lead author of the new study. "But they don't seem to sleep more or be more active during their early pregnancy. It's just a change in their daily timing."

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The new changes in the timing may put a pregnancy at risk, as sleep-wake schedules have been associated with preterm birth and other poor reproductive outcomes. On a national level, one in 10 babies is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy have been completed. And according to the study, this can happen because of disruptions of regular sleep-wake schedules. During this time, activity levels also dip, but during the later stages of pregnancy, the daily schedule stabilizes.

"This finding is fascinating because while we know that miscarriage, preterm birth and other serious complications during pregnancy are linked to disruptions in a mom's circadian rhythm, we don't know how it works," said Kelle H. Moley, MD, chief scientific officer for March of Dimes in a statement. "This study takes us one step closer to understanding how normal circadian rhythm supports healthy pregnancy."

Researchers from the same study also observed that the amount of activity during pregnancy was significantly reduced—in both women and mice.

Ironically, sleep in medicine is poorly studied, says Emily S. Jungheim, MD, associate professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology in the School of Medicine and a co-author on the new study. "Even among healthy women and men—those who eat well, who exercise—the one thing they're willing to do without a second thought is skimp on their sleep. A lot of people don't pay attention to how important it might be."

The good news is, though it doesn't seem like it, a lack of sleep can always be corrected. And ultimately, if you're looking to have a healthy baby, putting sleep at the forefront of your daily routine is a great step in the right direction.

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Motherhood is a practice in learning, growing and loving more than you ever thought possible. Even as a "veteran" mama of four young sons and one newly adopted teenager, Jalyssa Richardson enthusiastically adapts to whatever any given day has in store—a skill she says she's refined through the years.

Here's what just one day in her life looks like:


Jalyssa says she learned to embrace agility throughout her motherhood journey. Here's more from this incredible mama of five boys.

What is the most challenging part of your day as a mom of five?

Time management! I want to meet each of the boys' individual needs—plus show up for myself—but I often feel like someone gets overlooked.

What's the best part of being a mom of five?

The little moments of love. The hugs, the kisses, the cuddles, the smiles... they all serve as little reminders that I am blessed and I'm doing okay.

Are there misconceptions about raising boys?

There are so many misconceptions about raising boys. I think the biggest one is that boys don't have many emotions and they're just so active all the time. My boys display many emotions and they also love to be sweet and cuddly a lot of the time.

What do you think would surprise people the most about being a mom of five?

How much I enjoy it. I never knew I wanted to be a mom until I was pregnant with my first. My desire only grew and the numbers did! I am surprised with every single baby as my capacity to love and nurture grows. It's incredible.

How do you create balance and make time for yourself?

Balance for me looks like intentional planning and scheduling because I never want my boys to feel like they aren't my first priority, but it is extremely difficult. What I try to do is not fit it all into one day. I have work days because motherhood is my first priority. I fit in segments of self-care after the kids' bedtime so I don't grow weary.

What's the biggest lesson you have learned from motherhood?

I have learned that sacrifice is actually beautiful. I was terrified of the selflessness motherhood would require, but I've grown so much through the sacrifice. There is nothing better than living for something bigger than myself.

When did you first feel like a mom? How has your motherhood evolved?

I first felt like a mom when I was pregnant with my first son and I intentionally chose to change my eating habits so my body could be strong and healthy for him. I didn't have to think twice—I just did what I thought would be best for him. That decision being so effortless made me realize I was made for motherhood.

My perspective has changed with each baby as I've realized motherhood doesn't have to be one-size-fits-all. With my first son, I was a by-the-book mama and it was so stressful. With each baby, I have felt more freedom and it has made motherhood so much more beautiful. I have evolved into the mother that they need, I am perfect for these boys.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


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