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We enter into motherhood expecting that we won't sleep, at least in the early days. We adjust, do our best, and sometimes we get so used to running on empty that even long after our children have settled into a sleep routine, we're still surviving on insufficient sleep.

According to Terry Cralle, an RN, certified clinical sleep expert and the spokesperson for the Better Sleep Council, the myth of the supermom is pushing moms to prioritize all kinds of things over their own rest, and it's hurting us.

"I would love to see moms be unapologetic for their needs for sleep. It's a biological need and we're much better parents when we're well rested. There's just no glory in being sleep deprived," she tells Motherly.

Here are six good reasons why mothers should not apologize or feel guilty for needing rest:

1. Because there is a gender sleep gap

Research suggests that women who have kids are more likely to be sleep deprived, but having kids does nothing to men's sleeping patterns. Last year sleep researchers from Georgia Southern University released the results of a nationwide telephone survey of 5,805 men and women. They found that only 48% of mothers under 45 years old reported getting at least seven hours of sleep per night.

There is a gender sleep gap, and the myth of the supermom allows it to continue. Moms need sleep as much as dads do.

2. Because we don't need to sleep in sync

According to Dr. Carmel Harrington, author of The Complete Guide to a Good Night's Sleep" and "The Sleep Diet," couples often make the mistake of trying to sleep in sync, but moms need more or less sleep at different times in their lives and cycles.

"As we get closer to the end of our cycle, a lot of us suffer from PMT (premenstrual tension), feeling irritable, grumpy or emotional," she told Vogue Australia, noting that those symptoms are the hallmarks of sleep deprivation.

"One of the things that we often don't address is that fertile women require more sleep in the second half of their cycle," Harrington explained.

Basically, you may need more or less sleep at different times of the month, so matching your partner's bedtime isn't as important as listening to your body.

3. Because skipping sleep doesn't make more time

According to Cralle, a lot of mothers shortchange their sleep in an effort to make more hours in the day, for work, for laundry, for self-care, but unfortunately, the clock is finite.

Insufficient sleep doesn't give us more hours, it just makes us less productive in the time we do have.

"You'll do better if you get the recommended amount of sleep every night, not just on the weekends," Cralle tells Motherly. "If you consistently get sufficient amount of sleep you're going to do more in fewer hours, you're going to be more productive, and you're going to be happier, you're going to be healthier, and a whole lot of other things that are really life-changing."

4. Because it's hurting us at work

Moms already face a lot of barriers in the workplace, and studies show that insufficient sleep makes it even harder.

When we don't get enough sleep our performance and attendance suffer and that hurts us even more.

According to the CDC, one out of three U.S. adults aren't getting enough sleep. So sufficient sleep can be a secret weapon in competitive fields. Get some sleep, mama, so you can really shine.

5. Because it's hurting our health, and our families

Chronic insufficient sleep is linked to obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Lack of sleep is also linked to mood disorders and depression. The physical impacts of lack of sleep may rob us of future time with our children, and the emotional impacts can stop us from enjoying the present with our kids.

"We are irritable when we're sleep deprived; we tend to get depressed when we're sleep deprived," Cralle tells Motherly.

She says that when mothers are getting the sleep they need, the whole family is healthier, physically and mentally, and that teaching our children the importance of sleep starts with getting enough ourselves.

"I think as adults we've disregarded it for a long time and it hasn't really been a personal value, let alone a family value," says Cralle.

6. Because moms have precious cargo

For a lot of us, driving our kids around is the literal equivalent to a part-time job. We're doing it upwards for five hours a week, and we shouldn't be doing it on so little sleep.

"We put people in danger by being sleep deprived. Drowsy driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving," says Cralle.

The Centers for Disease Control agrees. According to the CDC, America has a drowsy driving problem, and one way to make our roads safer is to get the rest we so need.

What about those times when it's just not possible?

There are times in motherhood where sufficient sleep just isn't in the cards, and we shouldn't feel guilty about that. When you have a crying baby or a sick toddler or a child who is fighting nightmares, sleep isn't a priority.

But in the seasons of life when we can make it a priority, we should, but it isn't always easy. It is so tempting to stay up late so we can have a couple hours of "me time," but doing it every night can lead to chronic sleep deprivation.

In a perfect world, mothers wouldn't have to choose between sleep and self-care, but sometimes we do. Try not to do it too much, and instead attempt to carve out some daytime time for you, even if it's just a few minutes.

How to get more sleep

Cralle suggests putting down your phone long before getting into bed, and keeping electronics out of the bedroom, can help mamas (and the whole family) get more rest. Giving yourself a media curfew can give your brain a buffer between screen time and sleep time, and help you fall asleep faster.

If habits aren't what's keeping you up, but parenting responsibilities are, don't be afraid to ask someone—a partner, a co-parent, a friend or family member—to take over childcare for awhile so you can get some rest.

We need seven to nine hours of sleep per night to be at our best. Don't apologize if you can't function on less than that. Moms do amazing things every day, but the truth is we don't have superpowers. We're only human, and we need to recharge.

[A version of this post was originally published August 28, 2018. It has been updated.]

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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.

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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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My husband and I always talked about starting a family a few years after we were married so we could truly enjoy the “newlywed” phase. But that was over before it started. I was pregnant on our wedding day. Surprise!

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