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The Truth About Parental Sleep Habits: Do New Moms Really Get Less Sleep Than New Dads?

Parental Sleep Habits

The science is in: according to a very recent 6000-person study on bedtime and sleep habits, mothers get less sleep (and therefore need to sleep more) than fathers. In the study, 62% of the women without kids got at least 7 hours of sleep on a daily basis, but for the women who had children, only 48% got their daily recommended hours of sleep.

Meanwhile, having children didn’t seem to disrupt the sleep habits of the men involved in the 6000-person study. For the women, however, the odds of not getting enough hours of sleep rose by 50% with each additional kid in the household. In fact, among the different variables related to sleep duration that the study considered, having children in the house was the sole variable associated with lack of sleep for moms.

Additionally, as explained by Dr. Kelly Sullivan (the author of the study), the lack of sleep that these women suffered was accompanied by a feeling of being tired all day.

So there you have it: moms get less sleep than dads. But while this is objectively true, it’s also an incomplete view of the entire picture.

Some Experts Say Dads Get Less (and Thus Need More) Sleep

In contrast to the above mentioned study, a smaller study back in 2013 has found that dads actually get less sleep than moms. While the range of this particular study is considerably smaller (21 first-time mother-father pairs), researchers used wrist trackers to get an accurate reading of each participant’s sleep habits. And interestingly enough, the study also found that while mothers got more sleep, their sleep patterns were also more regularly disturbed, a factor that researchers attribute to breastfeeding duties.

Similar results were found in a much earlier 2004 study that looked at the sleeping habits of 72 couples during the first month of being parents.

Dads get less sleep than moms (but moms suffer more disturbed sleep). However, as the authors of these studies have noted themselves, various other factors can play a role in the sleep patterns of new parents.

The Reality: Both Parents Need More Sleep

Let’s take a more in-depth look at the results of the above mentioned studies:

In the one that involved 6000 adults and claims that mothers get less sleep than fathers, Dr. Sullivan also found that for men less than 45, higher education was directly associated with longer sleep duration. And for women, longer sleep duration was associated with both a higher household income as well as being unemployed.

In the two other studies that claimed fathers get less sleep than mothers, the authors also noted that both parents were much more fatigued and sleep deprived during the first month of parenthood than any time during pregnancy.

When both parents share the responsibility of child rearing, both are bound to suffer from fatigue. And it’s up to both parents to be honest with each other about how tired they really are so they can make the necessary adjustments when scheduling parental duties.

The question shouldn’t be, ‘Who gets less sleep, the mom or the dad?’ Rather, it should be ‘How can both parents be more relaxed and get more sleep?’

Fatigue and stress management is a critical part not just of child-rearing, but also for the sake of keeping a peaceful relationship between the parents. Whether you’re a new mom or a new dad, it’s your sworn duty to do everything you can to share parenting duties in a way that’s reasonable for both parents (whether your relationship is romantic or not).

Find new and mutually beneficial ways to manage stress and fatigue: Make your home more conducive for child-rearing. Find creative ways to relax and maximize the times that you do get to sleep. The more sleep both parents get, the better they can be at taking care of their children.