TODAY   |  September 25, 2013

New parents get sleep, but with too many interruptions

A new study shows that new parents are actually getting nearly six hours of sleep a night, but their sleep is often interrupted, leading researchers looking for ways to help them make the most of the sleep they’re able to get. NBC's Peter Alexander reports.

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>>> series born today. the first few days after giving birth can be a whirlwind for first time parents. especially without any sleep. 65% of moms and 37% of dads wish you had gotten more sleep during your baby's first year, even beating out getting more sex. so what is a sleepless mom or dad to do? one young family opened up their home to our cameras day and night . here's peter alexander with the story.

>> reporter: for new parents in texas, these first 48 hours have been both exhilarating and exhausting.

>> how did you guys sleep last night?

>> terrible.

>> not enough.

>> get ready. it's going to be a lot of fun at home.

>> i'm excited. i'm not going to get any sleep but i'm used to that.

>> reporter: just back from an 8 month tour in afghanistan, for donnie today is a different homecoming with two day old lucas in tow. my wife allison and i were in their shoes just two months ago with our little girl ava. it's a juggling act with new gadgets.

>> how do we put him in?

>> reporter: new outfits and new experiences.

>> first time i've been peed on by an infant.

>> that did wear a family out.

>> maybe we can relax a little bit.

>> reporter: by nighttime lucas has his own plans. it's impossible to sleep like a baby. more than 70% of moms say their newborn's sleep effects their own and while adult sleep is linked to the overnight hours, for infants, it's spread throughout the day. surprisingly for new parents the problem isn't sleep deprivation . they actually get an average of nearly 6 hours a night. it's sleep fragmentation, extreme fatigue caused by constant interruptions. in a first of it's kind experiment researchers are studying the impact of sleep fragmentation. they showed us how it works. young women , not yet moms themselves sleep at the lab but every few hours researchers wake them up with a recorded crying baby and then each woman has to care for the baby doll . for the study subjects it was an eye opener.

>> what did it feel like?

>> the first time it wasn't too bad. but by the time i got to the third time it was almost like do i really have to.

>> reporter: she even admitted getting anger.

>> it was almost like trying to counter it was anger and wanting to go back to sleep.

>> reporter: their study is still going on with the goal of helping them.

>> what can we do to help the sleep they are getting and what can we tell them to improve their sleep hygiene .

>> i don't know how many times i was up and down.

>> reporter: by sunrise, lucas is finally out.

>> our first night up all night.

>> reporter: and mom and dad can finally enjoy their new little man peacefully.

>> love, joy, happiness.

>> yeah, just a whole new purpose in life.

>> reporter: for today, peter alexander , nbc news, morgantown, west virginia .