How Postpartum Insomnia Affects Moms and Dads Differently — Especially How Long It Lasts

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sleep deprived parent

The postpartum period is rough. Between sleepless nights, fluctuating hormones and caring for your new baby, it’s a recipe for overwhelm and stress, and a recent study finds that new moms and dads experience the postpartum period very differently.

The study, which was released earlier this month, and published in Behavioral Sleep Medicine, found that the length of time in which parents experience sleep and stress struggles differ. (1) For fathers, sleep and stress trials lasted for two months, whereas mothers experienced the postpartum period for an average of eight months. The study also found that mothers reported less sleep than fathers throughout the study, such as at the four and six months postpartum checkpoints. Additionally, both mothers and fathers in the study benefited mentally from physical activity — an association researchers beyond the perinatal world have found to be true as well.

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Previous studies have found that the presence of insomnia and anxiety can be a clear indicator of postpartum depression for mothers. A 2023 study also found that insomnia and poor sleep can be predictive of postpartum mood disorders. (2) It’s a vicious cycle, those postpartum mental health issues preventing sleep, and lack of sleep exacerbating their symptoms, in some cases.

With more and more emphasis being placed on equality in parenting, the study is another example of how the lack of sleep can impact each partner and their physical and mental health. As mothers obviously experience the postpartum period longer than their partners, there are ways to help ensure that restorative sleep is achieved, including:

  • Create a nap schedule and napping when your child naps (or at least resting your body)
  • Room-share if possible for the first year, experts recommend
  • Enlist safe, reliable outside help
  • Take necessary breaks when you need to, and placing the baby in a safe place like the crib during those
  • Create a schedule that divides the parenting load as equally as possible including daytime and nighttime
  • Support nursing moms even in the overnight period by helping them get water, change diapers, or take a shift using a pumped bottle
  • Don’t skip dad’s postpartum mental health, as sleep deprivation can exacerbate issues for all parents, not just moms
  • Speak to your physician about postpartum mental health conditions early and often, and seeking therapy if needed

Also if you are experiencing symptoms of a postpartum sleep disorder or mental health condition, seek out support from those around you, such as family and friends, talking about it as soon as possible. 

As a new parent, it’s important to remember to give yourself grace during the postpartum period. While the postpartum period may feel like it will never end, it does, and by prioritizing your sleep and negating other tasks to gain those much-needed zzz’s, you’ll find yourself in a better place both mentally and physically — no matter what your parenting role is. 

  • 1. Kracht, Chelsea L. “New parents’ sleep, movement, health, and well-being across the postpartum period,” Behavioral Sleep Medicine;; April 9, 2024.

  • 2. Okun ML, Lac A. Postpartum Insomnia and Poor Sleep Quality Are Longitudinally Predictive of Postpartum Mood Symptoms. Psychosom Med. 2023 Oct 1;85(8):736-743. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0000000000001234. Epub 2023 Jul 13. PMID: 37506301.

Alexandra Frost

Alexandra Frost

Alexandra Frost is a Cincinnati-based freelance journalist, content marketing writer, copywriter, and editor focusing on health and wellness, parenting, real estate, business, education, and lifestyle. Away from the keyboard, Alex is also mom to her four sons under age 7, who keep things chaotic, fun, and interesting. For over a decade she has been helping publications and companies connect with readers and bring high-quality information and research to them in a relatable voice.  She has been published in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, Glamour, Shape, Today's Parent, Reader's Digest, Parents, Women's Health, and Insider.

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