New calculator works out how much sleep parents have lost

Posted in Sleeping.

There’s a new quiz that allows you to calculate the hours of sleep you’ve lost since your baby was born. Based on research that found parents’ sleep returns to normal when a child turns six, it asks you to input your answer to three simple questions to determine your magic number.

By inputting your child’s date of birth, whether your breastfed or bottle fed (because breastfed babies tend to wake more often), and if you’re female or male (mums tend to get up in the night more), the calculator will generate how many hours of sleep you’ve lost every week, month and year since having your sprog.

2201 was my number for lost hours of sleep since my youngest was born five years ago. My husband’s number? A paltry 462 hours. Ouch. Like we needed something else to bicker about.

Questionable accuracy

The quiz is based on a study that followed 2,541 women and 2,118 men after the birth of their child, tracking their sleep habits for several years. It concluded that neither mothers’ nor fathers’ sleep fully recovers to pre-pregnancy levels for a good six years after the birth of their first child.

While this probably sounds about right for a lot of parents, the calculator doesn’t really offer much accuracy, with just three questions asked to generate a result. It doesn’t take into account sickness, special needs or upheavals in the household which could have contributed to sleep patterns. It also doesn’t take into account the babies that do sleep well from early on, breastfed or not – and those babies that were extra tough on parents.

Is this what tired parents need??

I’m not the only one to wonder what the point of this calculator is. Do we need more focus on how tough sleep deprivation is? With so much emphasis on the sleep habits of babies, and the emotional cost to parents who worry constantly about how their little ones are sleeping (and how much longer they can cope without sleep), it seems like the last thing anyone needs is a number to confirm what we already know: that parenting means losing sleep.

Parents, especially brand new ones, need support that they’re wakeful baby is normal, and that there are ways to cope and improve sleep quality using gentle techniques. Sure, the calculator in a way confirms that all parents lose sleep, and therefore none of us are on our own. It can also make you feel like a bit of a superhero for surviving on broken amounts of sleep.

But it also keeps us stuck on how tough sleep deprivation is, which doesn’t really help.

A different sum would be better

Becoming a parent involves many gains but also many losses, such as career, identity and for us mums, even our bodies. These losses, while very normal to grieve, can really take a toll on parental wellbeing, and focusing on yet another loss, like hours of sleep, can just add to this already fairly overwhelming list.

What if we focus instead on one the gains of all that disrupted sleep?

Imagine if the calculator added up how many hours of nightly cuddles you’d had with your baby over the years? Which, when you think about it, is what we’re doing when we’re up in the night with children.

This sort of sum would be a much more positive way to look at lack of sleep, and keep us focussed on the important role night-time parenting has for our children.

And THAT NUMBER might just keep us smiling, despite the dark circles under our eyes.

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