WARWICK, England — It’s a hope and dream of many, if not all new parents: a speedy return to full nights of restful and refreshing sleep. Unfortunately, it takes more than just a few months after a baby is born to return to the type of sleep quality enjoyed before pregnancy. In fact, according to a new study, it takes about six years to get there.
Researchers from the University of Warwick followed 4,659 German parents who had a child between 2008 and 2015, surveying them on their sleeping habits each year. They found that moms of newborns tend to sleep for an hour less in the first three months of parenthood, whereas dads generally lose about 15 minutes during that time.
In months 4-6 after birth, the authors say mothers gain back 30 minutes of rest, but even when children reach 4 to 6 years of age, sleep duration still remained about 20 minutes less for moms than pre-pregnancy, while dads still clocked 15 minutes less on average.
“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 6 years after birth of the first child,” says study co-author Dr. Sakari Lemola in a media release. “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.”
During the study period, 2,128 participants reported giving birth to their first child; another 2,461 people reported the birth of their second child; and 1,032 welcomed their third-born. The study found that sleeping issues were stronger in first-time parents as well as in moms who breastfed their babies.
The authors say the sleep totals remained consistent across all income levels as well as in homes of single parents.
The study was published in the journal SLEEP.