They always warn you about having little to no sleep when you welcome a new baby into your life.
But what many parents don’t realise is that it can actually take six whole years before having an undisrupted night’s sleep.
A study, tracking almost 5,000 parents found that even when children had reached school age, mums and dads were still suffering significantly worse sleep than before they entered parenthood.
Unsurprisingly, sleep satisfaction and duration was at its worst in the first three months after birth, the study, by the University of Warwick and published in the journal Sleep, found.
There’s a gender difference in the amount of sleep lost too, with mums losing out on an hour’s sleep a night in the first three months after giving birth, while dads lost 13 minutes.
Over the first four to six years with their first child, women missed out on 41 minutes of sleep, while men sacrificed just 14 minutes a night.
That gap reduced over time with mothers sleeping 20 minutes less after six years, while fathers were still deprived of 15 minutes a night.
Researchers said the increased responsibilities of parenthood contributed to sleepless nights, long after the demands of night feeding and nappy changing had ended.
Before having children, when you got to sleep through the night and lie in at weekends, men and women clocked up just over seven hours’ sleep a night, on average, the study found.
“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 Lead researcher Dr Sakari Lemola.
Another study from Netmums found that whopping 83 percent of parents have had sleep issues with at least one child, over half (55%) of parents said they are unhappy with the amount of sleep they get each night and 56 percent confessed their child/children wake at least once or multiple times during the night.
“One of the biggest delusions is that children will just start sleeping soundly when they are ready, but it’s not true,” added Lucy Shrimpton, The Sleep Nanny and expert at The Baby Show who said sleeping soundly is a learned skill for children.
With these facts at hand, it’s crucial for parents to get the most out what little sleep they do get, with experts recommending they follow these tips:
- Focus on quality rather than the number of hours
- Delegate tasks when you’re sleep deprived
- Have items conveniently prepared for any middle-of-the-night mishaps –whether it be a feed or nappy change – so that you can get back to sleep quicker.
- Stay away from technology at night and bright lights
- Don’t check the time through the night
- Seek help if there are no improvements.