real life

Fathers of newborns are more sleep-deprived than mothers. This is no joke.

If you’re reading this through bleary eyes, while clutching your sixth coffee for the day, this may be hard to take.

Studies from the US have shown that fathers of newborns are more sleep-deprived than mothers.

I know.

The two studies were carried out using wrist trackers. The first study was of 21 couples who’d just had their first baby. It showed that mothers were being woken more often – no doubt, due to feeding. But fathers were actually getting less sleep overall and were sleepier.

Meanwhile, the second study was of 72 couples in the first month after their baby’s birth. It showed that fathers were getting less sleep in each 24-hour period, as mothers were napping during the day.

That advice to sleep when the baby sleeps? Never worked for me, but it seems some mums are actually able to do it.

This poor dad is so sleep-deprived that he's forgotten where he keeps his shirts.

The findings, reported in the book The Informed Parent: A Science-Based Resource for Your Child's First Four Years, by Tara Haelle and Emily Willingham, are likely to come as a surprise to a lot of people. In fact, the authors mention another study of new parents which reveals that mothers tend to overestimate how well fathers are sleeping.

There are some really important points to be made here.

Firstly, every couple is different. These are just studies, and fairly small ones at that, so they're not going to reflect everyone's experience.

Secondly, it's not a competition. Sleep deprivation is hellish. Whether your partner is experiencing it worse than you or not at all doesn't change what you're going through.

Parenthood. Wonderful. Exhausting.

But most importantly, the effects of sleep deprivation on both parents need to be taken seriously. Another study in the book shows that new fathers are putting in long hours at work, despite having, on average, less than six hours' sleep at night. Their sleepiness is making them less vigilant about workplace safety.

Then there's the commute. Driving while sleep-deprived can be as dangerous as drink driving.

Ideally we'd live in a world where all parents were given a generous amount of paid leave after the birth of a child. While we're dreaming of that, let's just keep in mind that having a newborn can be really, really tough on both parents. They both need sympathy and support.

Did you or your partner suffer serious sleep deprivation after you had a baby?