Why Sleep is the Biggest Obstacle for New Parents
There are a lot of things that make it difficult to be a new parent — new responsibilities, new skills to learn, new expenses, and a new lifestyle that will mean making room in the day for a whole new set of priorities. But, above all of those, we bet that most new parents would put a lack of sleep at the very top of their list of obstacles they face.
Sleep is Essential for New Parents
We wanted to know if our assumption about the importance of sleep was right, so Mattress Firm conducted a survey of 2,000 parents about the challenges of being a first-time mom or dad. We weren't too surprised to find that when asked about the biggest challenge of being a new parent, loss of sleep came out on top (48%).
But, it turns out that sleep is an even bigger deal that we expected — and sleep is our whole job! It turns out that parents' nightly sleep falls from an average of six hours per night to just four hours after their baby is born.
Parents miss the sleep too. Our research found that the average parent would have shelled out $1,598 just for an extra hour of quality sleep every night. Even further, one in four parents (27%) would eat only baby food for an entire year if it meant their newborn's sleep schedule would match theirs for the first year of infancy.
Differences Between Moms and Dads
Many dads are increasingly interested in being more involved in all aspects of caring for their baby, but the dynamics of nursing and the fact that dad usually goes back to work before mom does mean that mom still handles the brunt of the overnight responsibilities. Our study found that men usually get the lucky break when it comes to sleep as a new parent, as 67% of female respondents said their partner got more sleep in their first year as parents.
It doesn't appear to be up for debate either, as 39% of men agreed they got more sleep than their female counterpart, with only 21% saying their partner got more sleep than them.
Interestingly, there does some to be some impact from this difference. On average, it takes 189 days, or six whole months, to fully adjust to being a parent for the first time. But our researchers found that dads take an average 33 days longer than moms to feel like they have fully adjusted to parenthood.
New Parents are Learning on the Job
Even after the sleepless nights, the changes in lifestyle and the tremendous responsibility of taking care of another person, 71% of respondents said they would gladly have another baby, should the occasion arise. We're not surprised that most people would be eager to do it all over again — the role of parents quickly becomes a central part of most people's identity and the overwhelming majority are happy with their new lives as a larger family.
When we asked when parents felt like they "mastered being a parent," our top responses were when:
- I was in a good routine (57%)
- I knew what to do when my baby was crying (54%)
- My baby was sleeping through the night (41%)
- I was able to recognize what my baby's different cries and sounds meant (40%)
- I didn't panic when my child was under the weather or had a temperature (36%)
- I didn't get frustrated by my baby's crying (34%)
- I always left the house with milk/food/snacks for my baby (33%)
- I was able to change a diaper quickly (31%)
- I always had a toy or something to entertain my baby (31%)
- I always left the house with a spare change of clothes for my baby (29%)
- I learned how to function with less sleep (27%)
So, the next time someone tells you some variation of "You look tired," — which happens to new parents an average of 144 times per year! — you can rest assured (haha) that you're not alone. See below for a few more facts we found out about new parents and sleep.