Study Confirms What Mothers Already Know: They’re Tired


Mothers are no strangers to sleepless nights. Now, a recent study provides scientific evidence behind the long-held truth of women: They’re tired.

Men’s sleeping habits aren’t changed after they have children, but it’s a different story for women. A preliminary study, to be presented at the 69th meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, could be used in support of women who are exhausted.

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“I think these findings may bolster those women who say they feel exhausted,” said study author Kelly Sullivan of Georgia Southern University in Statesboro in a press release. “Our study found not only are they not sleeping long enough, they also report feeling tired throughout the day.”

Data from a national telephone survey was used for the study. More than 5,800 individuals answered a series of questions, such as how long they slept and how many days out of the month they felt tired.

Participants’ age, race, education, marital status, number of children in the household, income, body mass index, exercise, employment as well as snoring were all listed as factors that could be associated with sleep deprivation. 48 percent of women age 45 years or younger with children reported sleeping at least seven hours versus the 62 percent of women without children.

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Having children in the household was the only factor linked to sleep deprivation for women 45 years and younger. None of the other factors, such as exercise, marital status or even education were associated with how younger women slept.

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Children in the household was also linked to how often the younger women felt tired. While having children in the house wasn’t reported to affect men, young women with children felt tired an average of 14 days per month. Women without children only reported feeling tired 11 days per month.

“Getting enough sleep is a key component of overall health and can impact the heart, mind and weight,” said 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.”

Scientists from the American Academy of Neurology recommend a wide variety of habits to get more sleep, including limiting bedroom use for sleep and sex only and reducing the amount of naps taken.

Related: New Fathers Get Depressed After Childbirth, Too

Other strategies include making your bed, working out in the morning, and eating a light dinner high in fiber and low in fat. Beth Malow, director of the Vanderbilt Sleep Division at Vanderbilt University, said avoiding caffeine is another method to catching up on elusive sleep.

“I recommend patients avoid caffeine after 3 PM, and even consider cutting it out by noon if they have insomnia or other sleep problems,” Malow told Neurology Now.

Sleep deprivation can lead to a wide variety of health issues, which is why it’s so important to sleep the recommended seven to nine hours a night. Adam Spira, an associate professor of Mental Health at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said sleep is important for daily activities, such as raising children.

“We can’t say with certainty that consistently getting a good night’s sleep will reduce your risk of developing neurologic conditions, or even reverse them,” Spira said. “But we do know it can improve your daily functioning, your reaction time, and your cognitive abilities, which in turn improves your quality of life.”