Working Moms Are Sleep Deprived, Working Dads Not So Much
It’s news that won’t surprise any mom: A new study finds that women with children are more likely to be worn out from lack of sleep than women who don’t have children, especially if they work outside the home.
But here’s the twist. While sleep deprivation has made many working mothers feel like zombies, fathers are apparently off in dreamland. The findings, which will be presented in April at the American Academy of Neurology, found that having kids had no effect on the sleep of the men in the study.
Researchers surveyed approximately 5,800 men and women about their sleep habits, including how long they slept each night and how many days they felt fatigued in the past month. They also asked about demographic information such as their ages and if children lived with them.
The results showed that for women, having kids was linked to getting less sleep and feeling more fatigued—and each extra kid in the household boosted the odds that a mom would be sleep-challenged by nearly 50%. This was especially true of moms under age 45 and mothers who worked (not working was associated with getting more shuteye).
Meanwhile, having kids in the house had zero impact on dads’ sleep quality or duration, the study reported.
The researchers haven’t released any possible reasons behind this sleep deprivation gender divide, but past studies have shown that working moms still bear the brunt of household responsibilities: A 2015 survey by the Working Mother Research Institute found that more working women than men are responsible for childcare duties, while a 2013 Pew Research Center study found that moms with kids under 18 were three times as likely as dads to say that being a working parent was hindering their career advancement.
The potential effect on working moms’ jobs makes sense if you look at the effects of sleep deprivation: Foggy thinking, moodiness, susceptibility to getting sick and a lower quality of life, according to the American Academy of Neurology study.
So if you’re a new mom getting ready to head back to the office or recently back after leave, here’s how to dial back the exhaustion so you’re not hurting your game at work.
Enlist your partner’s help. Pop quiz: Even when you and your significant other pledge to split chores and child-related care 50-50, who typically stays up all night with a sick or sleepless kid? Thought so. You don’t want to keep score, but aim to make a more equitable arrangement so neither of you has to be the one who is always sleep deprived.
Negotiate working remotely. You’d be surprised by what managers are okay with these days if it means keeping you on their team. Sit down with your boss and ask about working from home one or two days a week; this means you’d be able to score some extra sleep on the days you don’t have to endure a long commute.
Make sleep a true priority. When life gets crazy, quality zzzs are often the first thing that go out the window. But considering how crucial sleep is to physical and mental well-being, it should be something you prioritize by setting a firm bedtime and committing to not checking your devices or watching TV before you hit the sack, as the light can disrupt your melatonin levels. (Honestly, the latest Westworld can wait.)
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