Sorry New Parents: Expect Six Years Of Sleep Deprivation

A new study has found just how dramatic the impact of having a baby is on sleep, especially for mothers.

While it’s no surprise to hear that having a family disrupts the parents’ sleep patterns, a comprehensive new study suggests that the yawns can last for up to six years.

Researchers from the University of Warwick studied 4,659 parents who had a child between 2008 and 2015, and found that in the first three months after birth, mothers slept an average of an hour less than before pregnancy, while fathers lost an average of 15 minutes of sleep.

It was around the three month mark that mums usually felt the droopiest eyelids.

"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 university’s Department of Psychology.

But the stats do even out somewhat over time. When the children were 4 to 6 years old, sleep duration was around 20 minutes less for women, while men still lost around 15 minutes a night.

Dr Lemola said the researchers were surprised that sleep deprivation lasted that long into a child's life.

“We didn’t expect to find that, but we believe that there are certainly many changes in the responsibilities you have,” Dr Lemola said

He added that even though children didn’t cry as often during the night as they got older, sleep was often interrupted by sickness and nightmares. And even if junior sleeps through the night, parental stress and worry can continue to impact on Mum and Dad’s shuteye.

Alongside the loss of actual sleep time, parents also reported a reduction in sleep quality. Women reported a decline in sleep satisfaction of 1.7 points out of ten in the first year after the birth of their first child.

Though the study found things did get somewhat easier with practice. Second and third children caused just a one point dip in satisfaction compared with their level prior to their first pregnancy.

Breastfeeding mothers did experience somewhat stronger loss of sleep than bottle-feeding mothers. But other social factors, including income and whether parents were single or in a couple, did not appear to impact on sleep length or quality.

But it’s all worth it for the unconditional love, right parents?