Study Finds Having a Baby Can Disrupt Sleep for Up to Six Years
Deep breaths, new mamas and papas: Your precious bundle of joy can impact your quality and quantity of sleep for up to six years after your baby is born. Yikes.
The finding comes courtesy of a new study published in the journal Sleep from scientists at the University of Warwick. In collaboration with the German Institute for Economic Research and the West Virginia University, researchers looked at sleep patterns in 4,659 parents who had a child between 2008 and 2015. While the parents themselves logged their hours of sleep and ranked their sleep quality on a scale of 0 to 10 — self-reporting leaves more room for error — the findings were illuminating.
For one thing, researchers discovered that following the birth of the first child, mothers' and fathers' sleep duration and satisfaction didn't return to levels before pregnancy for up to six years after the baby arrived. They also found that moms slept an hour less in the first three months of their newborn's life while father slept 15 minutes less. Six years later, that figure dropped to 20 minutes less of sleep per night for moms and remained at 15 fewer minutes of sleep for fathers. Interestingly, higher affluence and other variables like single parent vs. two-parent households didn't seem to alter the results.
WATCH: How to Tell If You're Not Getting Enough Sleep
These findings were more pronounced in first-time parents than adults who already had a child or children. Women also bore the brunt of the burden, with Dr. Sakari Lemola, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Warwick noting in the press release that, "[w]omen 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."
Alas, worsening sleep patterns aren't entirely out of your control — tantrums and feeding time, take that! — so long as parents make proactive efforts to focus on getting shut-eye. Eating a healthy diet, limiting caffeine intake, and regular exercise can all help improve sleep.
Need help channeling calm before bedtime? Try meditating, some soothing stretching, or these 12 Relaxing Quotes to Help You Sleep At Night to coax you into the Land of Counting Sheep.