Research reveals that becoming a mother is likely to deprive you of sleep—long-term, and at the expense of your health and sanity (men’s sleeping patterns remain undisturbed, says the same data. Here’s exactly why you shouldn’t be shortchanging on shuteye—and how you can get more in.
According to Terry Cralle, certified clinical sleep expert, the perpetuation of the ‘supermum’ myth is largely to blame for poor maternal sleep habits:
“I would love to see mums be unapologetic for their needs for sleep. It’s a biological need and we’re much better parents when we’re well rested. There’s just no glory in being sleep deprived,” she says.
Dr. Carmel Harrington, author of The Complete Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep and The Sleep Diet, emphasises the proven disparity in gender sleep needs:
“As we get closer to the end of our cycle, a lot of us suffer from PMT (premenstrual tension), feeling irritable, grumpy or emotional,” she explains.
“One of the things that we often don’t address is that fertile women require more sleep in the second half of their cycle.”
And in general, burning the candle at both ends doesn’t help us get stuff done—it slows us down, heightens safety risks, and reduces the quality of our efforts…including in relationships.
Chronic lack of sleep is connected to rising rates of obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, as well as mood disorders and depression.
By swopping our slumber for staying up, we could be trading our future with our kids, and keeping us from fully enjoying the moments we do have with them.
“We are irritable when we’re sleep deprived; we tend to get depressed when we’re sleep deprived,” Cralle says. She describes the knock-on effect of sleep habits, with good sleep habits begetting a healthier mind and body—which has an impact on interactions with the whole family. What’s more, out kids learn by example:
“I think as adults we’ve disregarded it for a long time and it hasn’t really been a personal value, let alone a family value,” says Cralle.
But motherhood, by design, does not accommodate lengthy swathes of restful repose. If you’re determined to carve out ‘me-time’, try not to do it at night—save the dark hours for sleep. Cralle advises stashing your phone away long before lights-out, and switching off that Netflix special, too. A ‘media curfew’ can help your brain shift into sleep mode faster, helping maximise your time available to sleep.
If it’s parenting responsibilities that are keeping you up, ask for help. Don’t hesitate to ask your partner, friend or family member to babysit so you can get a nap in, or an early night.
Says Cralle: “If you consistently get sufficient amount of sleep (7-9 hours) you’re going to do more in fewer hours, you’re going to be more productive, and you’re going to be happier, you’re going to be healthier, and a whole lot of other things that are really life-changing.”