When you’re childless and in your thirties, a lot of the people around you are having, or have had, kids.
This means that when you see them, you have to ask about the child. It’s polite and distracts them for a few minutes from the inevitable “tick-tock” while looking pointedly in the general direction of your uterus.
Even if you know nothing about babies, you know to ask whether or not it’s sleeping through the night.
New parents love nothing more than talking about how little sleep they’re getting.
What they don’t know is that that sleep deprivation isn’t confined to the first year of their kid’s life. The Guardian reports that a new study has found that sleep deprivation could last up to six years.
Researchers tracking the sleep of thousands of men and women as their family size increased have found that shuteye hits a low about three months after birth – with the effect strongest in women.
However, while parents gradually saw an improvement in their sleep as their firstborn grew, it seems their night-time rest was never quite the same again.
“We didn’t expect to find that, but we believe that there are certainly many changes in the responsibilities you have,” said Dr Sakari Lemola, co-author of the research from the University of Warwick. He added that while children may stop crying during the night as they age, they may wake up, be sick or have nightmares, while the stress and worries that go with parenthood can also affect parents’ sleep.
The research drew its conclusions by looking at the responses to a quiz filled in by 2 500 women and 2 200 men. During the study, the participants were followed for six years.
The mothers also lost about 40 minutes of sleep a night in the year after a baby arrived compared with pre-pregnancy levels regardless of whether it was their first or a subsequent child.
Deeper analysis of data showed the first three months after the birth of a first child were particularly gruelling: women lost just over an hour of sleep compared with before they became pregnant.
While similar trends were seen for fathers, the effects were less pronounced. Even at three months after their first child’s birth, fathers only lost 13 minutes of sleep
Yo men, step it up. You could both get more sleep if you both participate in taking care of your kid. It’s 2019.
So what can you do about it? Accept help from friends, hire a nanny, and abandon all unnecessary tasks around the house, say the experts.
My mum always says “no matter the time of day – when the baby sleeps, you sleep”, which sounds wise.
And finally, Cathy Finlay, an antenatal teacher with the UK’s National Childbirth Trust, says that parents should take heart, because it does get better with time.
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