Earlier this month, multimedia news organisation and radio program producer NPR posted a story that offers a surprising alternative to commonly-held beliefs on sleep deprivation in new parents, positing that studies (yup, more than one) show that it’s dads who get less sleep than mums during those early postpartum weeks.
Referring to excerpts from a new book, The Informed Parent – “a science-based resource for your child’s first four years” – the NPR highlights one particular 2013 study of 21 mother-father pairs in the throes of their first infant experience, which found that fathers actually got less sleep than the mothers and experienced more confirmed sleepiness, as measured using wrist trackers. However, research authors also found that even though the mothers theoretically got more rest, their opportunity for full REM was disturbed more often, thanks to their role as primary food source.
But here’s the defining difference between each parent’s brand of sleep deprivation: the article suggests that, despite their feeding schedules, mothers appeared to have more opportunities to “make up” sleep with baby during the day, while fathers missed the opportunity to squeeze in zzz’s— due to work commitments or lack of parental leave.
Ultimately, the NPR piece is not trying to ignite a war between the sexes on ‘who’s more tired’; both genders suffer an excruciating shortage of shuteye, albeit in different ways. The point is that those first few weeks/months/years are hard on mothers and fathers, and the only way to survive them without going postal on one another is to acknowledge this hard-learned reality, and work as a team.
To quote the article,
“The women didn’t think the men were as sleep deprived as the men felt, and the men thought the women were moodier than the women felt. Just one more reason that a good partnership is key for surviving the stresses of parenting an infant.”