Around 50-70 million people in the US have sleep problems. But according to a new survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is single parents who are most at risk.
Colleen N. Nugent, of the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and colleagues found that single parents – particularly single mothers – with children aged 18 and under were more likely than adults of other family types to have less than 7 hours sleep each night.
What is more, single parents were found to have more trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, and were more likely to wake up without feeling well-rested than adults without children and two-parent families with children under the age of 18.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults aged 18-64 should aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. However, the CDC note that almost a third of American adults do not even reach the 7-hour goal.
A number of studies have documented the negative health implications of poor sleep, including increased risk of depression, diabetes and heart disease. A study reported by Medical News Today last October also found a link between sleep disturbances and Alzheimer’s disease.
According to Nugent and colleagues, previous research has indicated that a person’s sleep duration and quality may be influenced by their marital status and whether they have young children living in the household.
The team set out to investigate this association further, analyzing 2013-2014 data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) to determine the sleep duration, sleep quality and sleep medication use of Americans aged 18-64 by sex and family type.
Overall, the researchers found single parents were most likely to get less than 7 hours sleep each night; 42.6% of single parents reported getting less than 7 hours sleep, compared with 32.7% of adults from two-parent families and 31% of adults living without children.
Among single parents, the team found that single mothers were more likely than single fathers to experience lack of sleep, with 43.5% of single mothers getting less than 7 hours sleep each night, compared with 37.5% of single fathers.
Among two-parent families, men were more likely than women to get less than 7 hours sleep each night, at 34.1% and 31.2%, respectively. And among adults living without children, 32.3% of men reported getting less than 7 hours sleep a night, compared with 29.7% of women.
Single parents were also more likely than adults in two-parent families and those living without children to have frequent trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, according to the survey results, and they were also more likely to wake up without feeling well-rested.
More than 50% of single parents reported waking up not feeling well-rested at least four times over the past week, compared with 42.2% of adults in two-parent families and 35.7% of adults without children.
Again, single mothers were at greater risk of poor sleep quality than single fathers. For example, 52% of single mothers reported frequently waking up without feeling well-rested over the past week, compared with 39.7% of single fathers.
Perhaps surprisingly, adults without children were most likely to have taken medication to help them sleep over the past week, with 7.9% of these adults doing so, compared with 7.3% of single parents and 3.9% of adults in two-parent families.
Commenting on what their findings show, the researchers say:
“Getting sufficient sleep is a national health objective and a public health priority. […] Overall, results reveal that single parents get less sleep and experience more sleep-related problems than adults in other types of families.”
These findings demonstrate yet another downfall of single parenthood, according to Nugent and colleagues, who note that the percentage of single-parent families in the US with children under the age of 18 has risen to 32% in recent decades.
“Research has shown that single parents have fewer financial resources, and this report finds that sleep is another domain in which single-parent families are disadvantaged,” the team concludes.
Last month, MNT reported on a study suggesting that people who share a bed with their pet may benefit from a better night’s sleep.