Rough nights for moms of multiple kids, but not dads

"Tension in the marital relationship may transpire if childcare is one-sided and not discussed collaboratively," says Marie-Hélène Pennestri. (Credit: Getty Images)

Mothers of multiple children report more fragmented sleep than do moms of one child, but the number of kids doesn’t seem to affect sleep quality for dads, research finds.

A total of 111 parents (54 couples and 3 mothers in single-parent families) participated in the study that appears in the Journal of Sleep.

Researchers Samantha Kenny, a doctoral student at McGill University, and Marie-Hélène Pennestri, assistant professor in the department of educational and counseling psychology, tracked participants’ sleep patterns for two weeks.

Mothers with one baby reported having less interrupted and better-quality sleep than mothers with more than one child, although the total amount of sleep did not differ depending on the number of children. They noted no difference in fathers.

“Experienced mothers perceived their sleep to be more fragmented than that of first-time mothers. Tension in the marital relationship may transpire if childcare is one-sided and not discussed collaboratively,” says Pennestri, who is also a researcher at the Hôpital en santé mentale Rivière-des-Prairies (CIUSSS-NIM).

According to the researchers, interventions developed by healthcare providers targeting an equal distribution of daytime and nighttime childcare tasks could be helpful. These interventions should be tailored to each family member, depending on their situation.

As next steps, the researchers aim to explain the differences between mothers and fathers, and to determine why mothers with more than one child report worse sleep.

Source: McGill University