Menu
You're not imagining it: Mothers are sleep deprived for the first 6 years of parenthood

No one expects to get a ton of sleep when they have a newborn at home, but most of us believe that we'll get more sleep when the kids are older.

New research suggests that's a myth that sets parents up for frustration because parents (particularly mothers) are still sleep deprived four to six years after bringing a baby home.

The study examined the sleep patterns of 4,659 German parents who had a child between 2008 and 2015 and found that parents' sleep duration and satisfaction don't recover to pre-pregnancy levels until the first child is in first grade.

Parents of older children often feel like they shouldn't be as tired as they are since they no longer have a baby at home, but this study proves that sleep deprivation doesn't end when your child starts sleeping in a big kid bed. It continues, and we can't address the problem if we don't acknowledge it.

"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," says Dr. Sakari Lemola, of the Department of Psychology at the University of Warwick.

FEATURED VIDEO

And moms get less sleep than dads, a trend that starts right away and lasts until elementary school. 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 first three months, dads lose out on about 15 minutes.

"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," says Dr. Lemola.

By the time the kids in the study were 4 to 6 years old the moms 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," Dr. 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 moms lost more sleep compared to bottle-feeding moms.

It may seem kind of bleak to think that you'll still be losing sleep when your child is in kindergarten, but it's important for parents to know this so we can set realistic expectations and give ourselves grace when we need it.

You can have a 4-year-old and be almost as tired as you were when they were 4 months old. It's okay if you need to sneak in a nap today, or if you fall into bed tonight with your mascara on.

There's nothing wrong with you, there's nothing wrong with your kiddo. It's just a part of parenting.

The good news is, parents don't get more sleep deprived the more kids they have. Whether you have one under six or three under six, you're still only going to lose 20 minutes.

If you are feeling really sleep deprived, don't be afraid to ask your village for help. If your partner, co-parent, a grandparent or trusted babysitter can stand in for you overnight, let them help you and get the sleep you need.

One day your kids will sleep through the night, but it's okay to ask for help until that day comes.

You might also like:






In This Article

    The one thing your family needs to practice gratitude

    And a tradition you'll want to keep for years.

    Gracious Gobbler

    I think I can speak for well, basically everyone on planet earth when I say things have been a bit stressful lately. Juggling virtual school, work and the weight of worry about all the things, it's increasingly difficult to take even a moment to be grateful and positive these days. It's far easier to fall into a grump cycle, nagging my kids for all the things they didn't do (after being asked nine times), snapping at their bickering and never really acknowledging the good stuff.

    But the truth is, gratitude and appreciation is the kind of medicine we need now more than ever—and not just because the season is upon us. For one thing, practicing gratitude is a scientifically proven way to boost our happiness, health and relationships. More importantly, we need to ensure we're cultivating it in our children even when things are challenging. Especially when things are challenging.

    I'm ready to crank the thankfulness up a few dozen notches and reboot our family's gratitude game so we can usher out 2020 on a fresh note. So, I've called in some reinforcements.

    Enter: the Gracious Gobbler.

    Keep reading Show less
    Shop

    Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

    So, what's new this week? All things maternity fashion, mama.

    Stowaway Collection Maternity: Modern maternity wear that shows off your bump.

    Finding clothes that still make you feel like yourself isn't always easy. With their premium fabrics and universally flattering cuts, we can't get enough of the maternity wardrobe essentials from Stowaway Collection maternity. Even better? Everything from the mama/daughter duo owned brand is sewn in Long Island City, NY and they source USA-made fabric whenever possible.

    Superkin: High tech, low maintenance clothing designed for mamas.

    Superkin's line of focused essentials (launched by two retail execs, Miriam Williams and Tara Henning, who worked for world-class brands like Louis Vuitton, Walmart, J.Crew and Narvar) are meticulously designed with the needs of mamas in mind. Made from luxurious, wear tested fabrics and featuring thoughtful design details, they've created a line of clothing women actually want to wear. Each piece is a welcome addition to a solid maternity capsule wardrobe, making them a worthy investment from the first trimester.

    Tellus Mater: Sophisticated, luxury maternity wear with a minimalist aesthetic.

    Founded by a former ELLE and Marie Claire beauty editor, Tellus Mater offers high-end, sophisticated maternity looks. Designed for mamas who are looking beyond the standard ruched dresses and oversize T-shirts, the considered line features classic white blouses, tailored trousers and fitted turtlenecks with a minimalist aesthetic. Their classic feel can easily carry mamas from meetings to business dinners all in one day.

    Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

    Keep reading Show less
    Shop

    The important safety tip parents need to know about sleep + car seats

    Why you might want to plan for more pit stops on your next road trip.

    When we become parents we don't just have to learn how to take care of a baby, we also have to learn how, when and why to use all the different kinds of baby gear.

    Keep reading Show less
    News