Experts Say Parents' Sleep Suffers For 6 Years After The Birth Of Their Child

Dan
1 Mar 2019

Having kids is a huge financial commitment that takes more energy than you ever knew you had. But while you can theoretically make more money eventually, you'll never, ever make up the sleep you lost. Just how much sleep do you lose? It's actually frightening.

Newborns are exhausting.

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Depending on how chill or unchill your baby is, you could be in for months of basically zero sleep as one parent or another has to constantly wake up to care for the little one.

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Toddlers are exhausting.

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They go to bed early (or they don't!) and they wake up early. Sleeping in when you've got an energetic, noisy toddler in the house is absolutely not an option.

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School-age kids are exhausting.

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Parents have to prepare meals for the day, drive their kids to and from school and also deal with extracurricular activities — often while working a full-time job.

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Just how long are things exhausting for?

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A new study out of the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom, sought to answer that question. As it turns out, kids cause parents to lose sleep for years on end.

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You definitely lose sleep after the baby is born.

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This is somewhat expected. For the mom, sleep is significantly messed up during the first three months after giving birth to her first child. But it's not like things so smoothly from there.

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It's harder on moms.

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During this crucial three-month period, it was reported that dads lost an average of 15 minutes of sleep per night, while moms lost an entire hour due to caring for the baby.

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It gets better...slightly.

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The researchers found that after the three-month period was over, things improved. But this just means that parents lost less sleep — not that they were getting a full night's sleep back or anything.

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What about older kids?

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It was found that, for parents of kids between four and six years of age, moms lost about 20 minutes of sleep per night while dads coninued to lose 15 minutes.

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When does it smooth out?

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It seems that, the older the kid, the better the sleep quality. It was also noted that these effects were more pronounced with first-time parents — so maybe it's possible to get the hang of it by the time kid number two comes around.

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Why is it harder on moms?

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"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," explained researcher Dr. Sakari Lemola.

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What else affects these numbers?

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You might think that having more money or having a dedicated stay-at-home parent might make things easier, but it appears that they don't really factor into how much sleep a parent might get.

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What can be done?

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It seems like having parents take a 50/50 role to raising their kids, as opposed to letting the burden fall on mom, would be a start. But this might just even out the sleeplessness, rather than fix it.

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Eventually everyone grows out of it.

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As kids grow and become more self-sufficient, sleep quality tends in turn to get better for the parents. But they'll still never get back those thousands of hours of sleep they've lost.

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They're a source of joy, but...

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"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 six years after the birth of the first child," said Dr. Lemola.

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What do you think?

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Nothing can adequately prepare a person for parenthood, and there's no way to adequately explain it except by living it. Parents, how much sleep have you lost? Would you change anything?

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