The results are in. The mile-long bags under my eyes confirm that I am not the father. I am the mother, and Mama is tired.
I haven’t slept right in almost five years, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen every hour on the hour throughout the entirety of many weeks (months?) in a row. If you’re reading this without an inkling of sorrow for me, you might just be a mother yourself. If so, you already know that sleepless nights come with the motherhood territory.
But now we have solid and sound research to speak for us instead of just a long line of repeated and exasperated yawns.
According to a preliminary study presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 69th Annual Meeting in Boston, women’s sleep is affected by having children in the house.
“Our study found not only are they not sleeping long enough, they also report feeling tired throughout the day,” said study author Kelly Sullivan, PhD, and member of the American Academy of Neurology.
Really?! We had no idea.
5,806 members, both men and women, contributed to the findings of this study. Researchers considered all factors and variables when pulling data, but out of 2,908 women aged 45 and under, the only variable found in common for sleep-deprivation was children.
Furthermore, each additional child increases a mother’s odds of experiencing insufficient sleep by a whopping 50%.
So I guess second-time moms weren’t lying when they said, “And I thought I was tired then.”
The study found that not only was having children in the home associated with the length of sleep a young woman slept (or didn’t sleep), but also how often they felt fatigued. But it’s really no surprise that having children in the house didn’t impact how much sleep a man got.
Go figure, huh?
We don’t want to sleep like a baby; we want to sleep like a dad. But it seems evolution is still at work and proving the “grandmother hypothesis” true today. It states that women live long after their reproductive years — a characteristic unique to humans — because of their important role in their family group’s survival.
Grandchildren can be cared for by the older generations while instilling survival instincts in them, and the younger females can focus on reproducing. This research expanded into another idea that kicked off the “poorly sleeping grandparent hypothesis.” his hypothesis shows that, in mixed-age groups, grandmothers may sleep discontinuously so they remain alert to potential dangers while their offspring rest.
So when your baby coughs a weird cough or rolls over in the middle of the night and you’re abruptly awoken from a deep sleep, you can thank evolution for those bags under your eyes.
Still, moms need rest too.
There are countless studies showing that — biologically — women need more sleep than men. It may come as a no-brainer when I say that women are generally multi-taskers. Meaning, we are more likely to be using our brains.
Women’s brains are designed with the capability of tending to our children while simultaneously working. We can thank this design for allowing our ancestors to keep their children safe while tending to households chores.
And even though the demands of being a mother have changed with advances in technology, medicine and just about everything else, women still hold that same, multi-tasking ability today.
We are expected to carry the babies, birth the newborns, breastfeed, bottle feed, pump, feed the toddlers, cook the food, clean the house, etc., all while making sure our little one’s are safe enough away from harm’s reach and living a happy life.
Sleep is essential to our well-being and when we are lacking, several health issues can come into play. Studies show that the effects of sleep deprivation more adversely impact women than men. For instance, a Duke University study “found that poor sleep is associated with greater psychological distress and higher levels of biomarkers associated with elevated risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. They also found that these associations are significantly stronger in women than in men.”
So let’s just come out and say it since we are all thinking it — moms are killing it. Whereas men would be dragging their feet after a sleepless night, women tend to do better on little to no sleep than men. But that doesn’t mean meeting our essential needs for sleep isn’t a necessity, because it totally is.
Moms, ask for the help. I hate to be one of those people who says “sleep when the baby sleeps,” but please, for your physical, mental and emotional help, try your best to sleep when the baby sleeps. Dads, changing a diaper after a nursing session goes a long way for a sleep-deprived mom.
“Getting enough sleep is a key component of overall health and can impact the heart, mind and weight,” said Kelly Sullivan, “It’s important to learn what is keeping people from getting the rest they need so we can help them work toward better health.”