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Entourage Star Speaks for America's Sleepless Moms

In new campaign, Debi Mazar urges other weary mothers to seek help

MONDAY, Oct. 30, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Every working actor has to contend with unpredictable work schedules.

"When I started out, we'd shoot nights, then switch to days," said Debi Mazar, 42, whose 15-year career includes parts in films such as Goodfellas, Batman Forever, Collateral, four Madonna music videos and TV roles on The Practice and Friends.

"That's really tough on sleep, but I knew that was 'the business,' so I just rolled with it," said Mazar, who's best known these days for her supporting role as celebrity publicist Shauna on the HBO hit show Entourage.

The New York City native said she's always wrestled with insomnia. But getting a good night's sleep got tougher -- and more important -- after she married in 2002 and became the mother of two daughters, Evelina, now 4, and new baby Giulia, born in March.

"Going without sleep is no fun, it affects everything," Mazur said. "I find myself getting more easily irritated with my kids, forgetting things, having trouble remembering dialogue."

Mazar is certainly not alone. In a nationwide survey of more than 500 American mothers released last week, 52 percent said they thought they'd be better parents if only they could get more restful sleep, and 65 percent said good sleep would make them happier.

The survey was conducted by Braun Research and sponsored by Takeda Pharmaceuticals, which makes the prescription sleep aid Rozerem.

The poll found that 54 percent of mothers said they don't get enough sleep. Not surprisingly, harried working moms fared worse, with 59 percent saying they desperately sought shut-eye. Busy stay-at-home moms had trouble dozing off, too, with 48 percent complaining of a chronic lack of sleep.

Why are America's mothers especially vulnerable to sleepless nights? Dr. Suzanne Griffin, a clinical psychiatrist and sleep expert at Georgetown University, said too many are burdened by a big plate of responsibilities.

She and Mazar have joined forces with a new Takeda-sponsored education campaign called Sleepless Moms, which is aimed at spreading awareness about the issue via an informational Web site, www.sleeplessmoms.com.

"Moms are still the 'CEOs of the family,' " Griffin said. "They are the ones who know everyone's schedule, who make sure that everybody gets what they need to get and goes where they need to go. And, like many CEOs, they're often more focused on everyone else than on themselves."

Too often, sleep gets squeezed out amid the competing demands on mothers. But sleepless mothers make for less-able "family CEOs," Griffin said.

"It's like what the stewardess tells you when you're sitting on the airplane before take-off," she said. "She says, 'Put on your oxygen mask first, before you put the mask on your child.' Sleep is like oxygen, and you can't be a good parent if you are sleep-deprived."

So, what can women do to get better rest? Griffin offered up some simple tips:

  • Stay on a regular sleep schedule. Try and doze off and wake up at roughly the same time each day.
  • Cut out sleep-inhibiting substances. These include caffeine (which is found in tea and soft drinks, too) and alcohol, especially in the late afternoon and before bed.
  • Ease into sleep. Creating a winding-down routine -- reading a book, taking a bath -- helps, experts say. So does creating a quiet, dark and comforting sleep environment.
  • Keep work out of the bedroom. Don't work in bed. Bed should only be associated with sleep, sex and relaxation.

Mazar said following these simple guidelines helped her reclaim restful sleep.

"I get more exercise, less caffeine, a little more sex, a little less Chianti," she said. "I took the TV out of the bedroom, and I found more time to wind down."

Mazar also consulted a doctor and ended up taking Rozerem, which she said helps her get back to sleep even when her children wake her up at night.

Griffin stressed, however, that "a sleeping pill is never the only solution. It may be a part of the solution, but we always begin in my office by teaching people how to manipulate their lifestyles so that their sleep can be improved. Your doctor is really the best person to help you decide what your best option might be."

According to Mazar, today's moms, more than ever, need some downtime.

"I think this just shows how incredible women are, because all women, but especially mothers, have this issue," she said. "They have to deal with their children. They need to be present."

More information

There's more on women and sleep at the National Sleep Foundation.

SOURCES: Debi Mazar, actor; Suzanne Griffin, M.D., sleep specialist and clinical psychiatrist, Geogetown University Medical Center, Washington, D.C.
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