Kids are a one-way ticket to years of sleep deprivation. And now science has backed us up! New research confirms parents are sleep deprived for the first SIX YEARS of their child’s life.

Oh and mums, you get less sleep than dads. Knew it!

According to the study, women don’t return to their full pre-pregnancy sleep levels even once their children are six years old. No wonder we’re all so bloody tired all the time!

Studying sleep (or lack of it)

Recently researchers told us that working mums are way more stressed than others. And now more validation is here with a new study confirming just how little sleep parents really get when their kids are young!

Published in the science journal Sleep, and led by University of Warwick researcher Sakari Lemola, the study analysed the sleep of 4,659 German parents from 2008 to 2015. They were people who had reported the birth of a first, second or third child during this time-frame.

And while there have been other studies previously looking at how having children affects your shut-eye, this one is particularly unique because it followed the same parents for a period of seven years. So we know it’s legit!

Tired mum with baby The newborn stage

Not surprisingly, the researchers found overall that the parents were getting way less sleep than those without children. And mums were getting the least. Duh! Want to know exactly how much you’re missing out on though? Here’s what the study uncovered about those early months with a new bub:

  • The first three months of a child’s life were the worst for parental sleep. On average mums lost more than an hour of sleep compared to before and fathers only 13 minutes less.
  • Two to three months following this period, mums got back an additional 30 minutes of sleep while dads were still only losing around 15 minutes.

Hmmmm…..

I guess when you consider they’re taking an average though, it does kind of make sense. Because even though it feels like a nightmare when you’re living it, usually not every single night is an all-nighter. Well hopefully.

It gets better

Of course, as babies grow, generally their sleep improves. And this is something else that the study confirmed. However, interestingly they did discover that it takes years to get back to even near the amount of sleep you had before you had kids.

According to the authors:

“maternal sleep satisfaction improves” with time, but it “does not reach pre-pregnancy levels even up to six years postpartum.”

So even when your child is six years old, if you’re a mum you’re still losing on average 22 minutes a night.

Dads? Well they’re apparently still only losing on average around 10 minutes or so. Figures.

Tired mum with newborn baby

What’s to blame?

The researchers found that the reason why parents weren’t getting enough sleep until their kids were at least six was because of the changes of duties, strains and worries.

  • Interestingly, factors such as rich versus poor, or single versus dual parenting, had no influence on the quality and amount of sleep.
  • Breastfeeding was also associated with less sleep compared to the mums who bottle fed.
  • Mums had it worse than dads not only because of breastfeeding though, it was also the fact that they did more household chores and child rearing than men. Even if they were working. Damn those dishes!

No sleep, no good

The authors of the study are hoping their new findings will encourage other researchers to investigate ways in which parents can look after their wellbeing when not getting enough sleep. And they also recommended that advice and support be provided to parents-to-be.

Hear hear! Lack of sleep can be associated with a higher risk of heart disease, depression, type 2 diabetes, weight gain, sickness, accidents and poor concentration. Plus everything becomes so much harder as a parent when you’re seriously sleep deprived. Right?!

So, what can you do?

Well, short of putting your kids up for adoption, here are a few nifty tips to get some more much-needed zzzz’s:

  • Sleep when they sleep – Especially when kids are really little and have day sleeps. And don’t be tempted to stay up late watching Netflix. You don’t want to get to bed at midnight only to have them wake up.
  • Become a master napper – Whether you’re waiting at the doctor or have ten minutes before the baby’s due to wake up, shut those eyes now! Every little bit helps.
  • Get help – Ask a friend or family member to come over so you can have a nap. Or let your partner know you’re struggling and get them to take over when they’re home so you can sleep.
  • Get quality sleep – Don’t look at electronic devices or the TV before sleep. Drink chamomile tea and use magnesium creams. Exercise and don’t booze. Do whatever it takes to make sure the sleep you do get, is quality.
  • Meditate – Meditation has been proved to be very restorative, so in lieu of sleep try breathing it out instead with some mindfulness.

Are you functioning on little sleep? Here are some mum tips from Elle Macpherson on how to get a good night’s sleep. Or maybe it’s time for a night out with the girls! Science also says mums need to go out twice a week with their girlfriends for their health so gather the troops!

Author

Susan is a Sydney based writer and mum of three highly energetic boys who keep her firmly on her toes (and slightly bonkers). When she’s not writing or trying to keep it all together she’s probably reading, watching Netflix or having a sneaky massage.

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