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Working moms get less sleep than dads

In news that likely won't surprise all those bleary-eyed working moms out there, a University of Michigan study has found that mothers employed outside the home are two-and-a-half times as likely as working dads to interrupt their sleep to take care of others. (And by "others," I'm sure they mean a crying child. Or two.)

According to a recent release, an analysis of data from 20,000 working parents showed that:

Among dual-career couples with a child under the age of one, 32 percent of women reported sleep interruptions to take care of the baby, compared with just 11 percent of men. The proportion reporting interrupted sleep declined with the age of the child, with 10 percent of working mothers and 2 percent of working fathers with children ages 1 to 2 reporting sleep interruptions, and just 3 percent of working mothers and 1 percent of working fathers with children ages 3 to 5.

The study also found - and, again, no surprise to this mom of two - that women's sleep interruptions last longer. Women are up for an average of 44 minutes, compared to about 30 minutes for men.

Sociologist Sarah Burgard, PhD, said the burden of interrupted sleep may affect a mom's health and well-being and also contribute to "continuing gender inequality in earnings and career advancement." And the findings, she said, have implications for public-health efforts to improve sleep:

"Generally, these interventions target individual behaviors, such as the use of alcohol, caffeine or tobacco," said Burgard. "Or they focus on nightly routines that help people to relax and fall asleep or stay asleep more successfully.

"But for parents of young children, the best approach might be discussions and negotiations about whose turn it is to get up with the baby tonight."

Photo by Micah Taylor

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