Summary: Mothers with more than one child reported more sleep disruptions that mothers with just one child. The number of children did not impact the quality, or quantity, of sleep for fathers.
Source: McGill University
Mothers with multiple children report more fragmented sleep than mothers of a single child, but the number of children in a family doesn’t seem to affect the quality of sleep for fathers, according to a study from McGill University.
A total of 111 parents (54 couples and 3 mothers of single-parent families) participated in the study published in the Journal of Sleep Research led by McGill doctoral student Samantha Kenny under the supervision of Marie-Hélène Pennestri, Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology.
Participants’ sleep patterns were studied for two weeks. Mothers with one baby reported having less interrupted and better-quality sleep than mothers with more than one child, although the total amount of sleep did not differ depending on the number of children. No difference was noted in fathers.
“Experienced mothers perceived their sleep to be more fragmented than that of first-time mothers. Tension in the marital relationship may transpire if childcare is one-sided and not discussed collaboratively,” says Pennestri, who is also a researcher at the Hôpital en santé mentale Rivière-des-Prairies (CIUSSS-NIM).
According to the researchers, interventions developed by healthcare providers targeting an equal distribution of daytime and nighttime childcare tasks could be helpful. These interventions should be tailored to each family member, depending on their situation.
As next steps, the researchers aim to explain the differences between mothers and fathers, and determine why mothers with more than one child report worse sleep.
About this sleep research news
Source: McGill University
Contact: Shirley Cardenas – McGill University
Image: The image is in the public domain
Original Research: Closed access.
“Mothers’ and fathers’ sleep: Is there a difference between first‐time and experienced parents of 6‐month‐olds?” by Marie-Hélène Pennestri et al. Journal of Sleep Research
Mothers’ and fathers’ sleep: Is there a difference between first‐time and experienced parents of 6‐month‐olds?
Sleep disruption and deprivation are highly prevalent among parents of an infant. However, most postpartum sleep studies focus solely on mothers, and few studies have investigated whether sleep differs between first‐time and experienced parents. The present study aimed to determine whether self‐reported sleep duration and quality differ between first‐time and experienced mothers and fathers during the postpartum period. A total of 111 parents (54 couples and three single mothers) of 6‐month‐old infants completed a 2‐week sleep diary to evaluate measures of sleep duration, sleep continuity, and sleep quality. An analysis of covariance model was used to compare the sleep variables of first‐time to experienced parents. Breastfeeding frequency, infant sleep location, depression, education, and work status were used as co‐variables. First‐time mothers reported a longer consecutive nocturnal sleep duration (mean [SEM] 297.34 [17.15] versus 246.01 [14.79] min, p < .05), fewer nocturnal awakenings (mean [SEM] 1.57 [0.20] versus 2.12 [0.17], p < .05), and rated their sleep quality higher (mean [SEM] score 7.07 [0.36] versus 5.97 [0.30], p < .05) than experienced mothers, while total nocturnal sleep duration did not differ. There were no differences in subjective sleep measures between first‐time and experienced fathers. The present study indicates that experienced mothers reported more fragmented sleep and perceived having worse sleep quality than first‐time mothers, but that paternal sleep did not differ as a function of parental experience. These findings have clinical implications for healthcare professionals working with families of various configurations and sizes.