Parents Get Poor Sleep for Up to Six Years After Baby Arrives

Sweet slumber isn't magically restored after sleep training. A new study confirms what your gut knows – parents get poor sleep for years after baby is born.

There are plenty of things new moms can’t do for a while – dads too, for that matter – after baby is born. Chief among them is the ice-cold fact that parents get poor sleep, thanks to the all-night-long screamings and feedings.

But even if you’ve mastered the delicate art of creating a sleep schedule for your baby, don’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet. Turns out you’re a long way from snooze town.

A team of researchers has discovered what veteran moms and dads probably already knew without scrutinizing 4,659 parents over seven years: “Sleep duration and satisfaction is decreased up to six years after giving birth for both parents,” Science Daily notes. (Italics added for duly dramatic effect.)

While perhaps not a total shock, the report certainly came as a dismay – especially for noobs.

“Those of us with toddlers (ahem) are probably downright horrified at this news,” Cassandra Stone of Scary Mommy writes. “You mean we’ve got a handful more years of pure exhaustion?”

Darn yes you do, says the study, which emerged from the University of Warwick in England. In it, experts from Germany and West Virginia examined the “sleep satisfaction and duration of first-time and experienced mothers and fathers.”

Cue the java.

These brave, sleep-deprived souls reported on their state of slumber each year, from 2008 to 2015, in interviews with the research team.

Not surprisingly, it found that the first three months immediately post-birth were the most brutal – especially for moms. They logged one full hour less sleep per night, on average, once baby arrived vs. during pregnancy. Dads, by contrast, lost 15 minutes per night.

This proves out that, while we’ve come a long way in terms of gender roles, “mothers are still more often in the role of the primary caregiver than fathers,” U of W psychology expert Dr. Sakari Lemola told Science Daily.

Flash-forward a few years and, by the time kids are age 4 or 6, it’s a different scene. Luckily, moms are now getting more sleep – only about 20 minutes less per night. And lucky dads are virtually unchanged, still missing out on only 15 minutes.

So yeah, parents get poor sleep for years – but really, there’s a hint of a silver lining here. Also, it’s worth noting that the impact was stronger for first-time parents – ditto moms who opt for breastfeeding vs. bottle-feeding, particularly during the first half year.

Another bit of good news? Your sleep also improves a tad if it’s not your first rodeo. And if those stars align, perhaps you’ll enjoy a few quality-sleep-filled years before adolescence and the teenage years swoop in to settle the score.

If you’re craving a bit of shuteye, check out our tips for helping moms with sleep issues – and advice to get toddlers to sleep through the night.

Was there a certain age (for your kid or kids) when you felt YOU got the best sleep? What do you credit that magic to? Comment and let us know!

This post was originally published in 2019 and is updated regularly. 

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