It is 3 a.m. and you have a one year old. And we all know what is going on: it’s feeding time, it’s changing time, or it is simply time to say “hi everyone! I am up and excited to be here!” But you have a presentation at work the next day, carpool in the morning, and this is night number 10 in a row, so what does a sleep deprived parent do?
A new study has told us exactly what may be happening, and no big surprises here: Mom gets up more than Dad! A University of Michigan researcher (having reviewed 20,000 working parents from 2003-2007) has given us the “first known nationally representative data documenting substantial gender differences in getting up at night-mainly for babies and small children.”
Not only do women get up more than men (working women are 2 ½ times more likely to get up than working dads: 32% of women compared to 11% of men) but:
- Women stay up for an average of 44 min as compared to 30 minutes for men
- The difference is maintained even with many other variables taken into account, including
- Employment status
- Education levels
- Sole bread-winner moms seem to have it even worse: 28% of sole provider working moms have interrupted sleep, compared to only 4 % of sole provider working dads!
The good news is that according to this study this difference and the actual interruptions decline with the age of the child. As the child gets older (ages 3-5) the difference is less, just 3% for working moms and 1% for working dads.
My suggestion for any parents with a newborn:
- Consult with your pediatrician to make sure that there is no emergent physical reason for these awakenings (e.g., Colic or reflux)
- Consider an “on-call” rotation similar to other professions for example:
- a. Mom takes Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights
- b. Dad takes Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday nights
- c. And you rotate every other Sunday
- Look at your internal biological clock and see what may work better:
- a. Is one parent a night owl and the other an early to bed, early to rise person?
- b. Split the night in half and each take a shift!
And a special note to all the Moms who have Dads who help out in the middle of the night (but you probably already know this): He’s a keeper!
Michael J. Breus, PhD
The Sleep Doctor™