Does parenthood ruin your sleep forever?

When I had my first baby in 2010, I remember asking my mother when it would get easier. Her reply? “I don’t think I slept properly again after having children.”

It wasn’t the answer I was hoping for, but she had a point. This week, researchers from the University of Warwick found that having a child disrupts your sleep for at least six years.

“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 birth of the first child,” said Dr Sakari Lemola, who led the study and blamed “changes in duties, strains, and worries related to the parental role” for disrupted sleep.

It follows previous research from Georgia Southern University that found each new child increases a mother’s chances of disrupted sleep by 50 per cent. Furthermore, in news that may well cause some breakfast-table debate up and down the UK, the study found that the same doesn’t seem to apply to fathers.

“Children in the household were associated with the frequency of feeling unrested among younger women, but not among younger men,” said lead researcher Dr Kelly Sullivan, who went on to say this is problematic because studies show women need more sleep than men.

But this certainly isn’t the case in our house. My husband Dan, who always pitched in with night feeds when our daughters, now three and six, were babies, is also the one who gets up with them now when they demand Cheerios at 6am.


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