Here's How Long It Takes for Your Sleep to Recover After Having a Baby

Sorry, parents. It takes years. Not months.

tired father asleep while holding son

If you're a new parent, you know that as adorable as those little bundles of joy are, they wreak utter havoc on your sleep cycle. In fact, a 2018 study found that the average parent gets under five hours of sleep during the first year of their newborn's life, which experts say is disastrous for both your cognition and your overall health. Now, a new study published in the journal Sleep says that bouncing back from all that sleep deprivation takes a lot longer than you may realize.

To arrive at their results, researchers conducted annual interviews with 4,659 parents between 2008 and 2015 and found that "sleep satisfaction and duration sharply declined with childbirth and reached a nadir during the first 3 months postpartum." According to the study, the moms were more affected than the dads, with men losing only 15 minutes of sleep per night in the first three months, versus more than an hour for women.

"Women tend to experience more sleep disruption than men after the birth of a child reflecting that mothers are still more often in the role of the primary caregiver than fathers," explained Dr. Sakari Lemola, a psychology professor at the University of Warwick in England and lead author of the study.

But what was more surprising is that, in both women and men, "sleep satisfaction and duration did not fully recover for up to six years after the birth of their first child."

Six years in, dads still slept 15 minutes less than usual, and moms slept 20 minutes less. The study noted that the sleep patterns of first-time parents were most affected, and that breastfeeding was also associated with decreased sleep satisfaction for women. Age, income, and dual versus single parenting had little to no impact on sleep deprivation.

As Lemola said (and parents already know), "while having children is a major source of joy, for most parents it is possible that increased demands and responsibilities associated with the role as a parent lead to shorter sleep and decreased sleep quality even up to 6 years after birth of the first child."

So go into the process with your eyes open, because they're not going to close for a while. And to learn more about how becoming a parent affects your life, check out this study that says Today's Parents Get Shockingly Little "Me Time."

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more