After welcoming a new baby, parents are often inundated with questions about their newborn’s sleep patterns. A new study conducted by McGill University examined the sleep levels of new parents but unfortunately the research found that it will take six years to regain the same level of sleep they enjoyed before having a child.
Additionally, mothers seem to get the short end of the stick. The research discovered that mothers generally get less sleep than fathers as they tend to take responsibility for more tasks during the night, such as breastfeeding. Mothers with multiple children report more fragmented sleep than mothers of only children. Conversely, the study found that the number of children has no effect on the sleep quality of fathers.
A total of 111 parents (54 couples and 3 mothers of single-parent families) participated in the study published in the Journal of Sleep Research led by McGill doctoral student Samantha Kenny under the supervision of Marie-Hélène Pennestri, Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology.
Participants’ sleep patterns were studied for two weeks. Mothers with one baby reported having less interrupted and better-quality sleep than mothers with more than one child although the total hours spent asleep did not vary depending on the number of children. No difference in sleep patterns was reported by the fathers.
“Experienced mothers perceived their sleep to be more fragmented than that of first-time mothers. Tension in the marital relationship may transpire if childcare is one-sided and not discussed collaboratively,” says Pennestri, who is also a researcher at the Hôpital en santé mentale Rivière-des-Prairies (CIUSSS-NIM).
According to the researchers, distributing the daytime and nighttime childcare tasks equally between partners would help take the load off of moms during the nighttime hours. Partners could work out a situataion where if mom gets up to nurse then dad could handle the late night diaper changes.
Going forward the researchers look further into the differences between mothers and fathers to discover why mothers with more than one child report worse sleep.