Do You Have ‘Momsomnia?’ It Might Be Impacting Your Sleep

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Woman reading phone in bed

You’ve been there. A day spent grocery shopping, prepping for the school’s bake sale, taking care of your sick five-year-old and doing everything you can to keep your toddler’s crayons scribbling on paper instead of the walls — and it’s not even Monday! It may sound like a chaotic one-off, but for many mothers, that’s just a day in the life.

While you might think the only thing anyone would want to do after a day like that is collapse into bed, many moms instead experience momsomnia — also known as revenge bedtime procrastination.

I’m talking about when moms stay up late despite their exhaustion in a last-ditch effort to get some me-time. Whether that’s taking the shower that’s been put off for three days, binge-watching that new Netflix show that everyone’s talking about (and you haven’t had time to watch) or even mindlessly scrolling through your phone, many moms are turning to the late hours of the night to get just a few moments to do what they want — but their health might be suffering for it.

The fact is, mothers are getting less sleep than their male counterparts, and while the instinct might be to keep going full steam ahead — and to take the little bit of me-time we can get in the wee hours of the night — this instinct can be detrimental to our health.

In the short term, sleep deprivation can cause sleepiness, lack of alertness, moodiness, fatigue, impaired memory, and judgment. While those side effects sound unpleasant and can be dangerous in their own right thanks to the risks of drowsy driving and sleepy decision making, it’s the long-term effects that are even more concerning, including:

• Diabetes
• Heart attack
• Stroke
• Dementia
• High blood pressure
• Heart disease

Needless to say, it’s extremely important that mothers prioritize sleep for their own health and wellbeing, but that’s easier said than done. Despite women making up about half the workforce, they still bear the brunt of the household chores, from cooking meals, to cleaning the house, to bringing children to appointments despite their own busy schedules. One mom’s tweet summed the situation up with a rather poignant anecdote about asking a few dads for their emails to get in contact about her child’s upcoming birthday party — all of the dads she asked gave her their wives’ emails instead.

A part of the problem is clearly an uneven division in the unpaid labor that keeps a household running. Another part of it is this narrative that still persists about women being able to have it all: the flourishing career, the spotless household, the happiest kids. All at the exact same time and without any help, of course.

But the thing is, that’s not possible. Even Serena Williams agrees that it can’t be done. But it doesn’t stop us from trying. Many women may even feel like they’re succeeding as they ignore the fatigue and burnout that comes from spreading themselves too thin — they have everything but sleep, after all! You might proudly tell your friends and family about all you’re accomplishing while talking about how little you’re sleeping in the next breath, or while knowing the only time you feel sane is when you’re sitting on the bathroom floor at one in the morning watching videos of dogs on TikTok.

The good news is there are ways to reign in the chaos of motherhood without sacrificing your sleep — or at least, without sacrificing all of it. Here are some tips for taking back your me-time without falling prey to momsomnia.

Ask Your Partner For Help

I know it sounds simple, but in a world where women and men are working and raising children side by side, it’s important that both parents are pulling their weight as much as possible. It isn’t fair for Mom to cook, clean, handle appointments, bedtime routines, bake sales, and hold down the fort at work while Dad does the minimum outside of the office.

It’s an issue that stems beyond the household, too. Many parents have lamented about their children’s school calling Mom first even if Dad is listed as the primary contact because he’s more readily available. This all stems back to the assumption that moms are always the primary caretakers regardless of their other responsibilities.

Luckily, a more equal arrangement benefits everyone: Studies show that relationships are strongest amongst couples who share childcare responsibilities, and women are unquestionably happier in relationships where household work is split equally. If you have a partner, ask them to do their fair share of household chores and childcare — chances are you’ll both be happier in the long run.

Set Boundaries When You Need Them

Despite proving our competency over and over again, there’s still a ton of pressure on women to prove our worth. Whether this means being perceived as the best mom, the best boss, best employee or business owner — or all of the above, depending on how many hats you wear — there’s pressure to do everything to the absolute best of our abilities at all times. How draining does that sound?

The best way to avoid burnout and to ensure women get the time they need to decompress is to embrace boundaries. You probably know where you need them most in your life, but this could be at the workplace or home. It could mean saying no to extra projects at work that you simply don’t have the bandwidth for. It could be splitting school pick-up duties 50/50 instead of the 30/70 arrangement you and your spouse have slipped into. You know where you need balance in your life, so don’t be afraid to set the necessary boundaries to achieve it!

It Takes A Village — So Use Yours!

The phrase “it takes a village” when it comes to child rearing couldn’t be more true. Everyone’s village looks a little different, but it’s so important that moms fully utilize theirs. If your friends or family offer to help out with the kids, take it! If you’re overwhelmed and need a hand, reach out to that trusted person and ask for it. Everyone needs help sometimes, and there’s absolutely no shame in asking for it.

Try To Prioritize Sleep

There are many different stages of life where prioritizing sleep can be a challenge, but none are quite as exhausting as the parenting stage. When you’re a parent, it often feels like there’s a million and one things you could be doing instead of sleeping, and even if you’ve done those things, sometimes you just want to mindlessly scroll through Instagram or watch TV like I mentioned earlier.

No matter how nice it feels to do something mindless that’s just for you at one in the morning, putting sleep back on your priority list will pay off in the long run. Do what you can to practice good sleep hygiene and make bedtime a relaxing ritual you look forward to every night. Your family will thank you!

Everyone deserves me-time, but giving in to momsomnia and sacrificing sleep to get it isn’t the best way to go. Do what you can to share the pressures of child rearing with your partner and your village instead of sacrificing those zzz’s — you’ll be happier and healthier for it!

Dr. Shelby Harris

Dr. Shelby Harris

Dr. Shelby Harris is on a mission to help you get a great night’s sleep. As a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in behavioral sleep medicine, she treats a wide variety of sleep disorders, including insomnia, nightmares, and narcolepsy, with a focus on non-pharmacological interventions. She is board-certified in behavioral sleep medicine by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the author of The Women’s Guide to Overcoming Insomnia: Get a Good Night’s Sleep Without Relying on Medication.

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