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 isnt fair, you think. I havent had a good nights 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.

When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.


The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.

As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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I was blissfully asleep on the couch while my little one was occupied elsewhere with toys, books and my partner. She got bored with what they were doing, escaped from his watch and, sensing my absence, set about looking for me. Finding me on the couch, nose-level, she peeled back my one available eyelid, singing, "Mama? Mama? ...You there? Wake UP!"

Sound familiar? Nothing limits sleep more than parenthood. And nothing is more sought after as a parent than a nap, if not a good night's rest.

But Mother Nature practically guarantees that you are likely to be woken up by a toddler—they're hardwired to find you (and get your attention) when you're "away."


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