Guess Who Sleeps Just Fine After Having Kids

A study found that having children affects moms more than dads.

by Susan Rinkunas
Feb 27 2017, 10:13pm

Robert Daly / Getty Images

Today, from the department of Things We Already Knew: Being a parent affects women's sleep more than it does men's. That's according to a preliminary study that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting in April.

Researchers looked at data from the 2012 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, an annual nationwide phone survey. That year, 5,805 people were asked how long they slept and how many days they felt tired in the past month. (For the purposes of this study, researchers defined optimum sleep as seven to nine hours per night; less than six hours was insufficient.) Participants were also asked about other factors that can affect sleep, including age, race, education, employment, income, marital status, body mass index, exercise levels, snoring, and number of children in the household.

Turns out only one of the above factors was associated with women of childbearing age getting insufficient sleep and that was—womp—having kids. Sixty-two percent of women ages 45 or younger who didn't have children got at least seven hours per night, compared to just 48 percent of moms. Each child in the house increased the odds of insufficient sleep by 46 percent.

Living with kids also affected how often women felt tired, as moms reported feeling fatigued 14 days out of the month versus 11 days for women without kids. There was no link between how men slept and whether or not there were kids in the house, a finding that might feel familiar to a lot of women. But other factors affected men: Those who didn't finish high school were more likely to get insufficient sleep than guys with college degrees, and men who said they snored got less shut-eye than those who didn't.

There are a few caveats, per usual. The first is that the study hasn't yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal. It's also based on a retrospective survey which asked people to recall how much sleep they got—it's not as though the researchers gave sleep trackers to 5,800 people. The survey also didn't ask people how old their children were and there's a big difference, sleep-wise, between a three-month-old and a three-year-old.

Still, the author says the study will validate many women's experiences. "I think these findings may bolster those women who say they feel exhausted," Kelly Sullivan, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Georgia Southern University, said in a release.