Sleep. It is the unicorn of the parenting realm. You hear about moms and dads of young kids who claim to sleep like logs, but where are they? Everyone you know is a walking zombie until their children turn seven. Sleep deprivation has long been associated with parenting little ones, but is it true? Do parents really miss out on zzz's while raising tots? According to one study, the answer is yes and no. When it comes to parenting and a lack of sleep, it seems mothers really are sleep deprived. Dads? Perhaps not as much.
Science Says Sleep-Deprived Moms Is Really a Thing
A recent study asked adults age 45 and under what their sleeping habits were. The 5,800 study participants were interviewed via telephone and asked about the number of hours they slept each night and how many days per month they felt tired. Researchers took factors like age, race, marital status, number of children in the household, income, body mass index, employment, and snoring into account.
Of the 2,900 women included in the study, only one sleep deprivation factor was evident: kids.
Furthermore, with every additional child in a household, the odds of inadequate sleep increased by 50%. Of the women who were a part of the study, 45% of women reported that they received at least seven hours of sleep each night compared to 62% of women who were not parents. The mothers in the study reported feeling tired at least 14 days per month, compared to non-parent females, who were tired 11 days per month.
Having children in the home was not a factor when looking at men and their sleep deprivation patterns. So what gives? Why are women losing out on sleep while men are slumbering away?
Why the Discrepancy in Sleep?
The reason that mommies sleep less can be due to several reasons. Women, in general, tend to fall victim to insomnia more often when compared to men. Ladies are, in fact, 40% more likely to suffer from insomnia compared to men. They have a higher incidence of anxiety and depression (both well-known factors in sleep-thwarting) and are prone to the effects of hormone fluctuations throughout their life span.
Isn't being a woman wonderful?
Women also tend to be major multi-taskers. This means that their brains are forever in motion, planning, organizing problem solving, and sorting through the day's woes. Mothers take this notion of multi-tasking to a whole other level. At any given time in the day, moms are mentally doing about fifty things. No wonder their brains won't properly shut off at night. Women also tend to wake up and take care of the children's needs. Factor in breastfeeding and pumping, and it is easy to see how they are getting the short end of the sleep stick.
The Effects of Sleep Deprivation
So moms can function on less sleep, but that doesn't mean this is a healthy practice. The effects of sleep deprivation have long been studied and noted. For moms who are missing out on shut-eye, they may find that they are at a greater risk for health woes such as:
- Mental ailments and conditions such as anxiety and depression
- Weight gain (wait- is this some cruel joke?!)
- Memory issues and trouble concentrating
- Mood changes
- Weakened immune system
- High blood pressure levels
- Elevated risk for diabetes
- Elevated risk for heart disease
Dads, in case no one has clued you in quite yet, if mom goes down because she is simply too tired to function, your whole ship goes down. You need this woman in tip-top shape. Look at these risk factors associated with little sleep? Pretty serious stuff, right? It is clear that moms are suffering from sleep deprivation, and this is no bueno, so moving on to Mission: Mommy Sleep!
Ways to Help Mom Catch up on Some Rest
Moms, you need 7 to 9 quality hours of sleep to be considered well-rested, yet getting to The Land of Nod can seem impossible. There are some tried-and-true ways to summon the Sleep Gods if you are struggling with your slumber.
- Lie down! Stop doing all the things and get off of your feet. Some chores really can wait, mommies.
- Turn devices, phones, and computers off before shutting your eyeballs. Mental stimulation can cause sleeplessness.
- Set your lights low. Bulbs with wattages higher than 15-watt can mess with sleep cycles.
- Watch your caffeine intake. Yes, this is easier said than done.
- Exercise earlier in the day. Try some light yoga poses that can help with relaxation.
- Schedule "worry time." You know that your mind starts its "Things to Fret Over" checklist right as it is time to turn in for the night. You can't avoid the worries, so make time for them in the afternoon or early evening. Write them down or talk about them; just do it long before bedtime.
- Create a sanctuary conducive to rest.
- Try a bedtime routine and schedule. This will also be beneficial to children who fight sleepy time.
- LET THEM NAP! Nothing is hotter than hearing your partner utter the words: Sleep, and I'll take the kids.
Sleeping Is Self Care
The verdict is in. Moms are complaining about being tired because they ARE TIRED. They are sleeping less than dads and putting themselves at risk for serious health woes. Moms need to find those snooze sessions wherever possible; it is a huge component of self-care. Moms are givers. They will want to put everyone else's needs before their own. This is noble but not practical. Utilize strategies to combat sleep deprivation and practice self-care. You have to look out for yourself so that you can then look out for everyone else, mamas!