The science of sleep – how dads really DON’T hear babies crying

It’s 3am and you’re suddenly wrenched from sleep; the ambulance-like wails of your offspring penetrating the walls and vibrating against your skull as if the tiny creature with ridiculously immense lung capacity has shrunk to fit inside your earhole and yell directly at your brain.

The science of sleep – how dads really DON'T hear babies crying

This is the seventh wake-up call of the night, and when you mention this through gritted teeth the next morning, your other half looks quizzically at your dehydrated eyeballs and then the giant puddle of drool in which he’s been marinating for the last 12 hours and says,

“Oh. Really?”

At which point any further description of the interaction would be a tad graphically violent.

It turns out, though, that Daddy Dearest probably didn’t hear any of the baby’s billion cries, but probably woke briefly when an errant fly buzzed nearby – while the winged intruder had absolutely no effect on you.

Tests carried out at the MindLab institution, as part of research into the importance of a good night’s sleep, have recently uncovered that while a baby’s sobbing is the number one sound most likely to wake up a woman, it doesn’t even feature in the male top ten.

By recreating a ‘sleep environment’ for each test volunteer, then playing a series of sounds and measuring how regular brain activity is disturbed by them, MindLab was able to compile a ‘Top Ten’ list of sounds most likely to affect each gender.

Car alarms, howling wind and a buzzing insect are the prime noises guaranteed to disturb a man’s sleep, while baby cries, dripping taps and rowdiness outside topped the women’s list.

Interestingly, they found that a woman’s maternal instincts kick in at the sound of a baby’s cries – even if she’s not a mother. It was also revealed that women are more likely to suffer sleep disturbances and men are more likely to be able to nod off again once they have been woken up.

According to psychologist Dr David Lewis, “These differing sensitivities may represent evolutionary differences that make women sensitive to sounds associated with a potential threat to their children while men are more finely tuned to disturbances posing a possible threat to the whole family.”

You can’t really argue with science, but this could be a difficult idea to accept for the gender blessed with the baby-radar. Especially at 3am in the morning.