This Is Exactly How Much Sleep You Lose After Having A Kid, Study Says
There's a lot to gain as a parent to a young kid: sticky hugs, messy kisses, and more love than you ever thought possible. But on the flip side, you're probably losing something, too: precious sleep. New research has found exactly how sleep-deprived parents are after having a child, and it's not the prettiest picture.
The study followed almost 5,000 new parents as they raised their child, gathering details on their sleeping patterns during and after pregnancy. Researchers found, on average, parents will still have disrupted sleeping patterns for up to six years after the birth of their first child. The study even accounted for other lifestyle factors—the age of the parents, the household income, and if they were a single parent—and still, there is an average of four to six years of mediocre snoozing.
Tending to a newborn throughout the night is nothing short of exhausting, as conditions usually have to be just right for a baby to actually fall—and stay—asleep. In the first three months of the infant's life, mothers missed out on an average of one hour of sleep per night. Fathers, on the other hand, were deprived of about 15 minutes. This may be due in part to nighttime nursing or because women still oftentimes hold the role of primary caregiver.
Not getting enough sleep is connected with a variety of adverse health outcomes—everything from metabolism disruption and increased sugar cravings to heart disease and Alzheimer's.
If having a child is on your radar for the future, you don't necessarily have to sign your life away to six years of subpar sleep. Try to limit screen time for both you and your kids a few hours before sleep, as it can significantly improve how you wind down and how you snooze through the night. Sure, getting your family on a consistent nighttime routine is a great place to start, but also be generous with yourself. If you're tired, give yourself permission to go to bed early, and know those coveted Z's are bettering your parenting and your life.
Elizabeth Gerson is a former mindbodygreen intern and a student at Stanford University studying Psychology and Communication with a specialization in Health & Development. She has also written for SFGate.com and The Stanford Daily and runs a paleo(ish) food Instagram, @healthy_lizard.