Long-term effects of pregnancy and childbirth on sleep satisfaction and duration of first-time and experienced mothers and fathers

Sleep. 2019 Apr 1;42(4):zsz015. doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsz015.


Study objectives: To examine the changes in mothers' and fathers' sleep satisfaction and sleep duration across prepregnancy, pregnancy, and the postpartum period of up to 6 years after birth; it also sought to determine potential protective and risk factors for sleep during that time.

Methods: Participants in a large population-representative panel study from Germany reported sleep satisfaction and sleep duration in yearly interviews. During the observation period (2008-2015), 2541 women and 2118 men reported the birth of their first, second, or third child and provided longitudinal data for analysis. Fixed-effects regression models were used to analyze changes in sleep associated with childbirth.

Results: Sleep satisfaction and duration sharply declined with childbirth and reached a nadir during the first 3 months postpartum, with women more strongly affected (sleep satisfaction reduction compared with prepregnancy: women, 1.81 points on a 0 to 10 scale, d = 0.79 vs. men, 0.37 points, d = 0.16; sleep duration reduction compared with prepregnancy: women, 62 min, d = 0.90 vs. men, 13 min, d = 0.19). In both women and men, sleep satisfaction and duration did not fully recover for up to 6 years after the birth of their first child. Breastfeeding was associated with a slight decrease in maternal sleep satisfaction (0.72 points, d = 0.32) and duration (14 min, d = 0.21). Parental age, household income, and dual vs. single parenting were unrelated, or only very weakly related, to improved sleep.

Conclusions: Following the sharp decline in sleep satisfaction and duration in the first months postpartum, neither mothers' nor fathers' sleep fully recovers to prepregnancy levels up to 6 years after the birth of their first child.

Keywords: childbirth; development; postpartum; pregnancy; sleep duration; sleep satisfaction.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Feeding
  • Fathers / psychology*
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Parenting / psychology
  • Parents
  • Parturition / psychology*
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Postpartum Period
  • Pregnancy
  • Sleep / physiology*