Most parents agree that a good night's sleep is the trade-off for having kids. Whether you have one child or a whole brood, it's likely that you can't remember the last time you went to bed at a reasonable hour or, even less likely, got to sleep in. Now a new survey says that the number of kids you have is actually corelated to the amount of shut-eye you get.
According to an Amerisleep survey conducted using the American Time Use Survey, moms of three get the least amount of sleep while moms of five are the most well-rested. The survey data, which was collected in 2015-2017 using a sample size of 31,621 people showed that mothers of three got an average of 8.8 hours a night while moms of five got an average of 9.0 hours.
Nicole Cannon, a certified infant and child sleep consultant and owner of Sleepy Mama told TODAY Parents that there's a logical reason behind the data showing that parents of five get more rest. "By the time parents have five children, they’ve figured out a way to maximize sleep despite the demands of their busy lives whereas parents who have three children are generally outnumbered for the first time and that may take away their ability to sleep as long."
So while some moms of big broods just naturally become more chill as their family grows, others see having more kids as a reason to get serious about their shut-eye.
Rachel Gorton of Gloucester, Mass., says that she makes sure she gets enough sleep each night — as a mother of five whose children are 19, 17, 8, 7 and 5 months old, it's non-negotiable.
"By 8 p.m. I am utterly exhausted and although there are loads of laundry and emails calling my name, I simply have to prioritize rest in order to have energy to care for the family and manage a full-time career," says Gorton, who is also a certified sleep consultant and owner of My Sweet Sleeper. "Staying up late to complete tasks or even spend time alone, isn't as appealing when you know you will pay for it later."
Even if going to bed early sounds like a fantasy, parents who have three kids and are feeling sleep-deprived should not lose hope, David Klose, certified sleep science coach for Amerisleep, the company that initiated the survey, told TODAY. Klose suggests parents view the data as an opportunity to take action and improve their sleep hygiene.
"It’s up to you as a parent to get adequate sleep each night to ensure you’re well-rested enough to be present with your kids," says Klose. "You can do this by setting a schedule with some built-in flexibility and being as consistent as possible. Our bodies like to sleep on a schedule and while a newborn has different sleep needs than an adult, it is possible to write out a plan with overlap."
No matter how old your kids are, (or even if you don't have any!) there are a few things everyone can do immediately to get a better night's sleep tonight:
1. Reduce screen time right before bed
"I advise all adults and children turn off their screens at least an hour before bed," said Cannon. "Our bodies need ample melatonin levels to feel tired enough to fall asleep and stay asleep overnight, and the blue light waves trick the body into thinking it's daytime rather than night. Additionally, sometimes adults become so focused on their screens that it distracts them from being able to relax enough to wind down prior to bed."
2. Set a specific routine
"Just like when we talk about how to get a child to sleep better, one of the best ways for an adult to sleep better is to practice a predictable, regular routine every night before bed," says Cannon. "This could be as simple as brushing one’s teeth and turning down the lights before getting into bed at roughly the same time every night. Or a more complex routine might involve washing, doing some light yoga or meditation, reading a book and then turning out the lights to go to sleep."
3. Write it down
"A big reason why people have trouble sleeping, especially women, is that they tend to think of everything they have to do the next day," says Cannon. "Especially with children, the lists seem endless. Rather than keeping oneself up with mental lists every night, keep a pad of paper and a pen next to the bed so that any intruding thought can be easily written down and then forgotten until the morning."