parent opinion

This is exactly how much sleep parents lose in the first year.

Sleep. It's an essential part of our well-being. Without sufficient z's in the sleep bank we can become irritable, stressed and, in extreme cases, it can start to negatively impact our health — both physical and mental.

And of course we all know that when we enter parenthood, it's the number one thing we lose (and miss the most) once we start this new chapter. When I became a mother for the first time two years ago, sleep deprivation rocked my world. Having given birth to a velcro baby, I was getting by on stretches of 45 minutes sleep around the clock.

I was shattered and as a result (along with other factors) I was diagnosed with post-natal depression. So integral was getting a teeny, tiny amount of decent sleep, my mind and body were severely depleted without it.

My story isn't unique. All around the world parents to newborns, toddlers, school aged-children and beyond are feeling the effects of not getting enough sleep. And we've got to the stats to back that up. Back in 2016 we first reported on exactly how many hours of sleep mums lose each week and I'm here to tell you those eight years... not much has changed.

Over the past couple of years there have been a number of significant studies and surveys which have illuminated just how dire parents sleep is these days. If you're reading this and yawning, you too may have fallen foul to your dreaded sleep deprivation era.

The first year is... rough.

The first year after welcoming a child is, as to be expected, takes a pretty aggressive dent out of our regular sleeping patterns, according to a survey conducted by Snuz. Out of 1300 parents, their stats showed that 7 out of 10 parents lost an average of three hours per night in the first 12 months of their baby's life.


That's around 133 days' worth of lost sleep — yep, it's exhausting.

Keep in mind those figures are averages which means if you've got an unsettled baby, those precious hours of sleep will drop significantly.

Snuz also conducted a poll which told a story about exactly what kind of affect this sleep deprivation has on parents' mental health. The results showed that 88 per cent of the 82,000 parents they polled said their sleepless nights caused them stress and 77 per cent felt anxiety in anticipation of the evening time.

A further 65 per cent said they felt lonely when up late with their newborn, something a lot of parents can relate to especially in those first few weeks.

Women get less sleep than men.

Socially I think we can all agree that the dynamics of a family unit has changed significantly over the past few decades. These days it is not uncommon to see parents in all different forms whether that be same-sex parents, single-parents or a heterosexual de facto partnership. Despite this, statistics still show that on average female parents are still getting less sleep than male parents.

Results showed a discrepancy between the genders when it comes to sleep deprivation, according to a study conducted by Sleepopolis. On average, women are getting 4.21 nights of insufficient sleep per week as opposed to men who average 3.85 nights.

When looking at how insufficient sleep impacts both women and men, the study showed that it was having more of a negative impact on females. Around 85.68 per cent of the women surveyed said that sleep deprivation caused stress and parent guilt while 72 per cent of the women said they experienced the same negative mental health impacts.


The study also showed that women were 4.33 more likely than men to feel overwhelmed by their parenting responsibilities because of their insufficient sleep.

Becoming a parent has a long-term impact on sleep.

Of course we know that the first year after welcoming a child is the most challenging when it comes to getting enough sleep, but a new sleep study has shone a light on just how lingering those rest issues are. For many, our sleep does improve as our children get older but the Sleep Research Society has found that it actually takes a lot longer for our sleep levels to bounce back.

According to this sleep study, parents' sleep will not fully recover to pre-pregnancy levels until the child is six years old. That's an awfully long time to be rubbing eyes and zombie-shuffling through the day.

Watch: Libby Trickett on why she struggled to bond with her baby Poppy. Story continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

How to make it through sleep deprivation.

Every year, March 15 marks World Sleep Day and if you missed it because, well, you were too sleep deprived, it might be a sign to make some changes in order to get some much needed rest in an effort to avoid negatively impacting your health.

So, how do we mitigate the sleepies? More often than not just trying to 'get more sleep' is a fantasy solution. For many of us there are lots of barriers that are stopping us from getting the essential rest we need. However, there are some small changes you can make that may turn around your sleep woes by giving you a little bit of respite.


First things first: cut out the 'revenge bedtime procrastination'. You know the old mindless scrolling our phones in bed because we didn't get enough free time to muzz out in the daytime. It might seem harmless but it's a pretty harmful detractor and a big factor in sleep quality. 

95.33 per cent of parents engage in revenge bedtime procrastination and it's having a negative impact on sleep quality as well as our mental health, Sleepopolis' survey found. The parents' surveyed said they felt stress, overwhelmed with parenting responsibilities, mood swings, guilt and regret as a result of engaging in revenge bedtime procrastination. By cutting out this phone time before bed we will be able to get those extra z's we need to feel more rested and less stressed.

Another way we can supported healthy sleep practices is better prioritise our time. As hard as it is to see washing pile up, non-essential household duties aren't as important as getting rest. Try to take the pressure off yourself to have everything 'perfect' and rest where you can.

In addition to this, have open and clear communications with your partner or support team about how you can offload some duties to ensure you can get some extra rest. Perhaps alternating on wake-ups is a good place to start sharing the responsibilities of being a parent.

While it may seem a long way off in the future, restful nights are on the horizon. Try to get support and sleep where you can. And when those precious sleep-ins roll around every once in a blue moon — cherish it.

Feature image: Canva. 

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