Starting a family is a well-known way to make a good night’s sleep a distant dream, but new research suggests the parental yawns might go on for six years.
Researchers tracking the sleep of thousands of men and women as their family size increased have found that shuteye hits a low about three months after birth – with the effect strongest in women.
However, while parents gradually saw an improvement in their sleep as their firstborn grew, it seems their night-time rest was never quite the same again.
“We didn’t expect to find that, but we believe that there are certainly many changes in the responsibilities you have,” said Dr Sakari Lemola, co-author of the research from the University of Warwick. He added that while children may stop crying during the night as they age, they may wake up, be sick or have nightmares, while the stress and worries that go with parenthood can also affect parents’ sleep.