Mums are sleep deprived for six years after having a baby – and yet dads are not
Tired of feeling tired?
You are not alone. New research has concluded that mums are, in fact, sleep-deprived for a whopping six years after having a baby.
The study, which examined the sleep patterns of 4,659 German parents who had a child between 2008 and 2015, found that parents' sleep duration and satisfaction don't recover to pre-pregnancy levels until your child is about to celebrate his or her sixth birthday.
In other words – forget about the notion that once you get your baby into his or her own bed you'll get enough sleep again.
"While having children is a major source of joy for most parents it is possible that increased demands and responsibilities associated with the role as a parent lead to shorter sleep and decreased sleep quality even up to 6 years after birth of the first child," Dr Sakari Lemola, of the Department of Psychology at the University of Warwick explains.
Then what about dads, you may ask? Are they not losing sleep?
Well, they are. But not as much as mums – by a long shot.
In fact, researchers found that in the first three months after a baby is born, mothers sleep on average one hour less than before pregnancy. In those same first three months, dads lose out on only about 15 minutes of sleep.
"Women tend to experience more sleep disruption than men after the birth of a child reflecting that mothers are still more often in the role of the primary caregiver than fathers," Lemola explains.
And the discrepancy lingers. By the time the kids in the study were 4 to 6 years old, the mums were still missing out on about 20 minutes of sleep, while dad's sleep deficiency remained steady at 15 minutes below the pre-kids duration.
"We didn't expect to find that, but we believe that there are certainly many changes in the responsibilities you have," Lemola told The Guardian, explaining that kids may stop crying at night as they grow up, but they may wake up feeling sick or due to nightmares, and that stress related to parenting can also keep parents up at night.
First-time parents lose the most sleep compared to more experienced parents, the research notes, and in the first one and a half years of a child's life, breastfeeding mums lost more sleep compared to bottle-feeding mums.
But if you are a baby mum now, and all of a sudden feel stressed at the thought of still having years of sleep deprivation ahead of you – don't. Knowledge is power, and by learning that your sleep might be affected for a long time still, you can set more realistic expectations for yourself – and maybe get better at reaching out to your family or your village for help when needed.
So sneak in that nap when you can, mama … whether your baby is five months or five years – lord knows you deserve it.