New parents take six years before they return to a normal sleeping rhythm

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A recent study carried out overtime on more than 5,000 participants has highlighted the impact of a new born child on the sleeping pattern of new parents.  On average you need to wait six years before returning to a normal sleeping rhythm according to this new study! 

Every parent knows that having a child, no matter how exciting and nice the experience, will generally have a negative impact on your normal sleeping patterns.  You end up sleeping less and not as well as you would normally.  These sleeping difficulties don’t last forever but when exactly can we hope to return to a good sleeping routine that is long enough and not constantly interrupted?  This is what researchers from the University of Warwick tried to answer in collaboration with the German economic research institute.

One hour less for the first three months

The new study directed by Sakari Lemola and published in the journal called Sleep, uses information from the German Socio-Economic Panel which has collected for several years information about the sleeping habits of thousands of Germans.  Researchers have looked at parents in particular.  Of those who participated, 4,659 parents (2,541 women and 2,118 men) declared the birth of their first, second and third child between 2008 and 2015.

Several things became apparent.  On one side, researchers noticed peaks of interrupted sleep during the first three months after the birth of your first child.  This is not surprising as during this time babies require almost constant attention.  During the first three months, mothers stated that they sleep one hour less than before whereas dads slept around 15 minutes less than before.

After six years mothers still have 20 minutes less sleep than before

Between three and six months, mothers stated that then slept 30 minutes more than during the first three months.  However dads continued to sleep 15 minutes less per night.  As the months pass the the quality of sleep improves – but not completely.  After six years mother sleep on average 20 minutes less.  “A mother’s sleep improves over time but she never gets the same amount as before you was pregnant, even six years after giving birth,” the study states.  In contrast, fathers tend to recuperate in general the same habits as before.

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However it appears that factors such as household income or family status (two-parent or single-parent), apparently have no influence on the quality of reported sleep. It also appears that parents with a first child reported a lower quality of sleep than parents with two or three children. Mothers who breastfed their child also reported a slight decrease in sleep quality compared to mothers feeding bottle-fed babies.

Give yourself the best chance at a good sleep

These results, the researchers note, should alert parents to the need, as far as possible, to regain adequate sleep quality after giving birth. Not sleeping enough can cause problems with concentration, weight gain, or increase the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Several techniques can be undertaken to maximize your chances of having a sufficiently restful sleep.  This can include physical exercise and stress management, or asking for help from family or friends, if possible. It is also advisable to limit the consumption of caffeine, and to keep your room in the dark avoiding bright screens from smartphones, tablets and televisions before falling asleep.


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