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Babies Lead to Six Years of Disrupted Sleep

We all know that having a baby leads to less sleep by the parents.  But, a new study has quantified just how much for both the father and the mother, and the numbers are staggering. 

The birth of a child has drastic short-term effects on new mothers’ sleep, particularly during the first three months after birth. Researchers at the University of Warwick have also found sleep duration and satisfaction is decreased for both parents up to six years after giving birth.

The study was a collaboration with the German Institute for Economic Research and West Virginia University.  It studied sleep in 4,659 parents who had a child between 2008 and 2015.

During these years parents also reported on their sleep in yearly interviews. In the first 3 months after birth mothers slept on average 1 hour less than before pregnancy while fathers sleep duration decreased by approximately 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,” said Dr. Sakari Lemola, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Warwick.

However, when the children were 4-6 years old sleep duration was still about 20 minutes shorter in mothers and 15 minutes shorter in fathers compared to their sleep duration before pregnancy. A similar time course was also observed for their satisfaction with sleep.

Sleep effects were more pronounced in first-time parents compared with experienced parents. In the first half a year after birth the sleep effects were also somewhat stronger in breastfeeding compared with bottle-feeding mothers.

Higher household income and psychosocial factors such as dual vs. single parenting did not appear to protect against these changes in sleep after childbirth.

“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,” said Dr. Lemola.

Source: News Release