Top 5 Reasons Mothers Feel Sleep Deprived

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Motherhood, really parenthood, and sleep deprivation seem like two sides of the same coin. While a few parents may brag about how their newborn slept through the night starting at Day 1 or 13, most of us struggle to get enough sleep on a daily basis. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control, more than a third of Americans aren’t getting enough sleep. Keep reading to learn about the top 5 reasons mothers feel sleep deprived. 

Sleep deprivation refers to a condition where you don’t get enough sleep. Sleep deficiency, on the other hand, is a broader concept that occurs when (a) you don’t get enough sleep; (b) you sleep at the wrong time of the day; (c) you don’t sleep well or get all the different types of sleep your body needs; and (d) you have a sleep disorder that prevents you from getting enough sleep or causes poor quality sleep (Read more here).

In addition to the above, parents, particularly mothers, may be more susceptible to a lack of sleep for the following reasons:

Reason 1: Insomnia from Daytime Stress and Anxiety

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that makes it difficult for people to either fall asleep or stay asleep. According to Medical News Today, insomnia is typically caused due to a secondary issue emerging out of illness or lifestyle and can include psychological, medical, and hormonal factors.

As most mothers of young kids know, our days are filled with different kinds of stress and anxiety. Whether you are a stay-at-home-mom, a working mom, or a work-from-home-mom, the delicate tightrope of a balance we all have to master every day can be quite overwhelming.

It is no wonder then that our bodies have little time to just relax and unwind at the end of the day. Even after the kids go to bed, when we can finally consider de-stressing, we have to think about the next day’s activities, events, meals, and other plans. It is the quintessential loopty-loo of never-ending and always-exhausting parenting and all of this makes for a disturbed and restless night.

Reason 2: Kids’ Disrupted Sleep Patterns

My quick Google search on the topic, ‘how to get my child to sleep through the night’ elicited over 3.5 million searches in 0.57 seconds. Think about all of us sleep-deprived and frustrated parents running those searches late into our sleepless nights! The kids surely aren’t doing the Googling! While frequent awakenings among newborns is understandable and in fact, developmentally necessary, there are a number of other reasons why our kids may have sleep issues of their own right from colic to feeling either hot or cold, that consequently affect ours.

What is important to note is that research by sleep scholars Lisa Meltzer and Jodi Mindell found significant differences in how children’s sleep disturbances affected maternal mood, and parenting stress and fatigue. Predictably, the quality of one’s child’s sleep directly affects the quality of the mother’s sleep.

Reason 3: Concern for Kids

I remember the first time my 1.5-months-old baby slept 5 hours at a stretch (this long stretch was a one-time thing until he was sleep trained). While I should have been celebrating and trying to get some sleep myself, I just couldn’t do it. I was worried sick something was wrong with him. Why else would a combo breastfed/formula-fed baby sleep 5 hours!! I kept sneaking up to him and holding my finger under his nose to make sure he was still breathing. I was that scared!

The concerns for one’s kids just evolve with time. When my daughter was an infant and slept swaddled, being the Houdini she was, I always wanted to make sure she hadn’t gotten herself out of her swaddle and if she had, that she wasn’t hot or cold, or worse, had the swaddle over her nose. So even though she slept right next to me in her bassinet, I would wake up at all times of the night to make sure she was safely asleep.

Such concerns are quite natural and more so if you have a newborn or a first-time parent. Research by Caryl L. Gay, Kathryn A. Lee, and Shih-Yu Lee found that parents experienced the most sleep disruption during the postpartum period and that mothers, in fact, had more sleep disturbances than fathers.

Reason 4: Personal Health and Shifted Priorities

Starting at pregnancy, mothers may experience minor and major health concerns of their own. Weight gain, digestive issues, snoring, obstructive sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, spine misalignment, and other individual health issues may cause their own version of disturbed sleep. Postpartum, baby’s feeding schedules, sleep disruptions, nutrition and diet that may have to change based on baby’s needs as well as one’s own, worries and emotional struggles over the end of maternity leave, challenges and concerns over finding a trustworthy daycare or babysitter, and others of this nature are enough to make one restless and sleep deficient.

In addition, the wakeful times when one should be sleeping or resting, may guilt you into catching up on household work that needs attention. While it may sound like a good idea, in theory, to sleep when the baby sleeps, this is perhaps a luxury only possible for first time mothers. Those of us with multiples have too much else going on with our older toddlers to rest. Eventually, as with #1 above, a busy day with very little down time makes for a continued overactive brain at night time causing, besides known or unknown personal health issues, sleep disturbances.

Reason 5: Unsuitable Mattress

One thing that may be completely overlooked in all discussions related to sleep and moms is the simple but important fact that perhaps, one’s lack of sleep, disturbed sleep, or insomnia is due to sleeping on an unsuitable mattress.

If you are a mom, a parent, or a caregiver, who has the very important job of taking care of little ones during your wakeful hours, you need your sleep. A good night’s sleep in not just a matter of chance. It is not a secret known only to an exclusive group of people. As parents, we are pretty much all in the same boat with our sleepless nights and sleepwalking-filled days. Investing in a high quality mattress is a gift you give yourself although understandably, again, as parents, self-care is sometimes an after-thought on our list of priorities, if even. 

Buying a high-quality mattress can also be an expensive purchase but as I previously mentioned, finding the right one is truly an investment you make in your own care and happiness and if we moms aren’t happy, we all know nobody else around us is, either.

Update (1/5/18) – Upon the sponsor’s request, we have removed the link that directed readers to their website. 

To work with me and collaborate on sponsored posts, please click here.


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A former Communication Studies professor turned a somewhat reluctant stay-at-home-mom (SAHM), I blog about my adventures raising two multiracial kids. I write about parenting and living a multicultural Indian-Canadian-American HinJew life with honesty, a few tears, lots of laughter, and gallons of coffee.
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