For many parents of young children, sleep deprivation is likely a regular occurrence. But according to new research, mothers fare worse than fathers.

[A mother sleeping on a child's crib]Share on Pinterest
Researchers have found that mothers get less sleep when living with children, but fathers’ sleep is unaffected.

From an analysis of more than 5,800 adults, researchers found that having children in the house significantly reduced the number of hours mothers slept each night, while fathers’ sleep remained unaffected.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the study found that mothers were much more likely than women without children to report feeling tired during the day.

Study co-author Kelly Sullivan, Ph.D., of Georgia Southern University, and colleagues are due to present their findings at the American Academy of Neurology’s 69th Annual Meeting in Boston, MA, in April.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should aim to get around 7-9 hours of sleep each night, but more than 35 percent fail to meet these recommendations.

Parents may not be surprised by this statistic, having likely spent many a night tending to a baby’s cries or waiting up for their teenager to arrive home. Popular notion holds that mothers are more likely to experience lack of sleep than fathers, and the new study appears to support this belief.

“I think these findings may bolster those women who say they feel exhausted,” says Sullivan.

For their study, Sullivan and colleagues analyzed data from a telephone survey of 5,805 men and women aged 45 and under from across the United States.

As part of the telephone survey, participants were asked how many hours they slept each night, how often they felt tired, and how many children they had in their household.

Sufficient sleep was defined as 7-9 hours each night, while fewer than 6 hours of sleep a night was deemed insufficient.

Compared with women who did not have children in their household, the team found that women who did have children were 14 percent less likely to report getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night.

Sleep deprivation worsened with each additional child in a household, the team found; every additional child was associated with a 50 percent increased risk of insufficient sleep among mothers.

Additionally, women with children in their household were more likely to experience daytime tiredness than those without children; women with children reported feeling tired on an average of 14 days a month, compared with 11 days for those without children.

Men’s sleep was unaffected by having children in the household, the team reports.

Lack of sleep is known to negatively impact physical and mental well-being, increasing the risk of diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and depression.

The researchers believe their study helps shed light on what contributes to sleep deprivation, paving the way for new strategies to help people get a good night’s sleep.

Getting enough sleep is a key component of overall health and can impact the heart, mind and weight. It’s important to learn what is keeping people from getting the rest they need so we can help them work toward better health.”

Kelly Sullivan, Ph.D.

Read how sleeping for more than 9 hours a night might increase the risk of dementia.