It’s 6 a.m.
You’ve only had five hours of sleep. Your toddler is pulling at your pajama shirt, trying to get you out of bed. Next to you, your partner is sound asleep. You and your toddler head off to the kitchen while he’s still off in dreamland, undisturbed.
This isn’t fair, you think. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since our daughter was born. I’m so tired.
Of course, you’re not the only mama to feel this way. Now science backs what you’ve always known: There’s a gender sleep gap, especially if there are kids in the house.
A recent study presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting found women who live with children get less sleep per night than men with kids.
Researchers from Georgia Southern University analyzed national phone survey data and discovered that only 48% of mothers under 45 years old reported getting at least seven hours of sleep. Conversely, 62% of women without children reported the same.
“I think these findings may bolster those women who say they feel exhausted,” says study author Kelly Sullivan, PhD, of Georgia Southern University and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.
The study bolsters previous research that’s found a gender sleep gap between men and women. According to 2005 National Sleep Foundation poll, women are more likely to experience insomnia than men—57% versus 51%. The poll also found 74% of stay-at-home moms reported symptoms of insomnia.
But young mothers aren’t only catching less shut-eye, they’re also more exhausted.
According to the Georgia Southern University study, women living with children reported feeling tired 14 days per month—three more days than reported by women without kids.
That exhaustion affects many areas of life: According to the Cleveland Clinic, when you’re sleep-deprived, you’re less alert, more stressed, moodier and more likely to struggle with remembering information. Lack of sufficient sleep has also been linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure, stroke, depression and lower sex drives.
“Getting enough sleep is a key component of overall health and can impact the heart, mind and weight,” Sullivan says. “It’s important to learn what is keeping people from getting the rest they need so we can help them work toward better health.”
One solution: The next time your toddler wakes you up, suggest that Dad handle the boogie monster this time.