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The Different Reasons Moms and Dads Lose Sleep Reveals the Problem with Working Parents

Most parents aren't strangers to sleepless nights, but new research suggests that moms and dads are losing shut-eye for different reasons.

A study titled “Gender Equality and Restless Sleep Among Partnered Europeans” from the Journal of Marriage and Family found that European moms are more likely to lose sleep worrying about and tending to children. Meanwhile, fathers are typically kept up by concerns about work and the family’s finances.

“Generally, men view sleep as a way to recover and prepare for work, while female caregivers view the night as an extension of their daytime obligations to family members,” wrote the study’s authors, Leah Ruppanner and David J. Maume, in Quartz.

Moms reported being woken up more often to comfort and put children back to bed at night. Even moms of teenagers and older children stayed up frequently because of worries about their children or waiting for them to return home after curfew.

While men were staying up because of work and money troubles, they were not alone. Working moms also reported staying up for those reasons in addition to taking care of kids. It's a double whammy for working moms, who shoulder most of the mental load and childcare duties during the day and night.

“All workers, regardless of gender, report that spending more time in work results in less time sleeping,” wrote the authors. “Full-time workers who felt upset or bothered at work also reported poorer sleep, as did workers with less control and more demands at work, regardless of gender.”

However, the study did find a silver lining for working moms: Countries with higher rates of gender equality reported better sleep for both parents.

“Women in gender-equal societies have more equal divisions of housework, and men take a more active role in childcare,” wrote Ruppanner and Maume. “Living in a broader context of equality translates into more restful sleep for women.”

And men also slept better in those countries as well—proving that everybody gets better sleep in a household that equally divvies up childcare and chores. As the authors mentioned, the benefits of sleep alone make it a goal that all couples (and countries) should aspire to reach.

“Since sleep is an integral dimension to health and well-being, the economic, health and social benefit to being well-rested cannot be understated,” they wrote. “So, let’s work together to get to bed.”

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