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babylag also baby-lag or baby lag

noun [uncountable]

a feeling of being very tired and sometimes confused because of the lack of sleep caused by looking after a very young baby



'It's a feeling all new parents are more than familiar with. Not enough sleep at night leaves you feeling like a zombie during the day; caring for your baby and yourself while continuously craving nice, deep sleep. Now it's got a name; Baby Lag …'

PR Newswire 17th October 2012

'I'm 82% babylagged! Basically I'm bloody knackered with a teething 9 month daughter, lively toddler, stroppy teenager, travelling husband and part time job!

forum post, www.netmums.com 17th September 2012

Have you ever, like me, had the experience of being so consumed by tiredness that you do something a bit strange? My own particular favourite is, after brewing a cuppa, putting a jar of instant coffee in the fridge while returning a carton of milk to the cupboard. Thankfully, I'm normally lucky enough to get plenty of rest these days, so such mental aberrations are pretty unusual, though I do recall a particular time in my life when sleep wasn't so regular and plentiful, and such temporary lapses of concentration were relatively frequent. I'm talking about the early stages of motherhood, when I felt so unbelievably tired that it was at times tricky to string a sentence together. Familiar to so many of us, this intense fatigue caused by looking after a young baby now has its own term of reference – babylag.

lack of concentration leads to such bizarre things as falling asleep in the shower, dressing in the wrong clothes, or pouring baby milk onto breakfast cereal

A survey of 1000 new parents undertaken in 2012 revealed that around 50% get four hours or less sleep per night, a good deal less than the optimum eight hours that we're supposed to have. Nearly a third of parents questioned were woken up three times or more, on each occasion being up for at least an hour. The problem with continually being woken up in this way is that the body has little chance to enter a stage of 'deep' sleep and thereby be recharged for the day ahead. The result is a feeling of exhaustion which has been likened to the sensation of jet lag, though, unlike the latter, it can't be recovered from within a couple of days.

Though most new parents, myself included in a former life, would say that tiredness in early stages of parenthood is no laughing matter, babylag does appear to have its funny side, with many of the parents surveyed reporting odd behaviour caused by sleep deprivation. Lack of concentration leads to such bizarre things as falling asleep in the shower, dressing in the wrong clothes, or pouring baby milk onto breakfast cereal. The survey also revealed the amusing fact that, although parents wouldn't 'trade' their offspring for a peaceful life, they might be prepared to make other sacrifices for the promise of a good night's sleep – such as giving up chocolate, refraining from buying new clothes, or even paying £500!

If you're a new parent yourself and can identify with the zombie-like existence this often entails, then you might get a bit of light relief by checking out this interactive quiz which is designed to assess just how babylagged you are.

Background – babylag

The expression babylag hit the mainstream media on both sides of the Atlantic in September 2012, in the context of a survey commissioned by the Johnson's brand of baby products (in part a promotional tool for their baby 'bedtime' range of toiletries). Reports claim that sleep expert Dr Dev Banerjee, a consultant at the Heartlands hospital in Birmingham, coined the term, observing the likeness between symptoms experienced by parents and jet lag – the fatigue associated with travelling across parts of the world where the time is different. In fact, however, it's not the first time that the connection between the two situations has been made, there being evidence of isolated, word play use of babylag as far back as the early nineties.

Mirroring the use of jetlagged from jet lag, babylagged has also begun to pop up as a derived adjective. The phrase jet lag first appeared in the mid-sixties, combining jet in reference to aircraft powered by jet engines and the word lag, possibly of Scandinavian origin and associated with the idea of 'going slowly'. In recent years jet lag also spawned the expression social jet lag, coined to refer to a feeling of tiredness when returning to work after a holiday.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

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This article was first published on 3rd December 2012.

Open Dictionary

Dunning-Kruger effect

the phenomenon by which an incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence

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