Wake-Up Call: Moms Are Losing a Lot More Sleep Than Dads

Filed under: In The News, Sleep

Getting up with the baby all night might help you bond, but it won't help you get ahead in your career. Credit: Getty Images

Mothers of young children don't get enough sleep because they are frequently getting out of bed to cries of, "Mooooommy!"

Stop the freakin' presses, right? You probably already figured that out.

But what you might not have known is that researchers at the University of Michigan compiled some honest-to-goodness data on this phenomenon and found working mothers are two-and-a-half times more likely than working fathers to get out of bed to help others.

Men do get up. From time to time. But when they do, researchers found, they are usually snoozing away again within 30 minutes. Women stay up an average off 44 minutes per late-night interruption.

"Interrupted sleep is a burden borne disproportionately by women," sociologist Sarah Burgard, a researcher at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, tells ScienceBlog.com. "And this burden may not only affect the health and well-being of women, but also contribute to continuing gender inequality in earnings and career advancement."

The study, which comes out in the next issue of the journal Social Forces, was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute on Aging and the Sloan Foundation.

Burgard and other researchers analyzed time diaries kept by some 20,000 working parents from 2003 to 2007 -- drawn from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Time Use Survey.

The gender gap was the widest among parents in their 20s and 30s with young children.

Among working couples with newborns, 32 percent of women reported sleep interruptions compared with 11 percent of men.

Moms get more sleep as their children get older, but, still, even with children approaching the toddler years, 10 percent of working women said they didn't get to sleep through the night. Only 2 percent of men reported the same problem.

"What is really surprising is that gender differences in night-time care giving remain even after adjusting for the employment status, income and education levels of each parent," Burgard tells ScienceBlog. "Among parents of infants who are the sole breadwinner in a couple, for example, 28 percent of women who are the sole breadwinner report getting up at night to take care of their children, compared to just 4 percent of men who are the only earner in the couple."

Before any husbands are seriously injured, it should be noted that researchers found moms get more overall sleep than dads -- by 15 whole minutes. They go to bed earlier or get up later -- probably because they're pooped from getting up at night.

Not helpful? Sorry. Burgard isn't very cheery about the whole thing, either.

"Women face greater fragmentation and lower quality of sleep at a crucial stage in their careers," Burgard tells the website. "The prime childbearing years are also the time when earnings trajectories are being established, and career advancement opportunities could well be foregone if women reduce their paid work time or see their workplace performance affected because of exhaustion. As a result, sleep interruption may represent an under-recognized 'motherhood penalty' that influences life chances and well-being."

She has a solution.

"For parents of young children, the best approach might be discussions and negotiations about whose turn it is to get up with the baby tonight," she says.

Psst, that's also a major way to score hubby points, guys.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.