Health & Science

New Survey Shows Why You’re Really Tired, Parents

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A new study confirms what most of us parents already know: We’re tired. Not only are we getting up earlier than the average American without children, but we’re staying up just as late too.

Coffee mug with the nutrition facts label listing the activities of parents.
Oh yes, tired parents are definitely a thing.

According to a survey conducted by YouGov on the typical routines of Americans, the majority of us go to bed between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m., regardless of whether or not we have kids at home (though actually, parents skewed toward a slightly later bedtime than the overall average). 

However, 56 percent of parents with kids under 18 years of age wake up by 6 a.m., while only 37 percent of non-parents rise this early. Maybe that’s why 65 percent of parents hit the snooze button in the morning at least once, compared to just 49 percent of folks without kids under 18.

The survey doesn’t tell the whole story.

Sure, according to the data, parents are to some degree responsible for our own exhaustion. After all, aside from those of us working third shift or dealing with extenuating circumstances, we’re the ones making the ultimate decision about when we tuck in for the night. But, there’s a lot that the numbers don’t reflect.

In a lot of cases, parenting itself breeds these questionable sleeping habits. It’s parents who stay up late to help with last-minute finishing touches on a science fair volcano, or to cut crusts off sandwiches for tomorrow’s lunch. Parents are the ones crawling out of bed at 2 a.m. to answer a baby’s hungry cries, comfort a child after a nightmare, or tend to a little one’s cough. 

It’s parents who get up early for an all-day Saturday soccer tournament, or to leave the house early enough to stop at daycare before work. And finally, it’s parents staying up way later than we know we should after our kids are in bed, even though we’re exhausted, just to recharge following a three-hour homework session or to reconnect with a partner we’ve barely seen all day.

Unfortunately for parents, good sleep is tied to healthy outcomes.

The experts over at Healthline suggest that “If you want to optimize your health or lose weight, then getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things you can do.”

So what can we do to get better sleep (and avoid laying in bed thinking about all we have to do the next day)? Healthline recommends some feasible things for parents, like reducing caffeine intake late in the day and taking our eyes off the screens close to bedtime. They also have a few recommendations that might be less feasible, like taking time to relax and clear your mind. That’s great advice, but can be tough when you’re mentally juggling the responsibilities of a family, or when your toddler is asking for his 53rd pre-dinner snack.

If their tips to get more sleep don’t work for you, try out a few of our ideas on how to curb your feelings of exhaustion. We also have some quick self-care activities to perk you up when all you have are two minutes to spare between serving a cup of juice…and cleaning up the juice your child just spilled on the floor. You can also check out this parenting sleep calculator and share it with your parent friends so you can see, once and for all, which one of you truly is the most sleep deprived of all.

Jessica Watson is a freelance writer, author and the blogger behind Four Plus an Angel. Mom to five kids, four in her arms and one in her heart, she tries hard to enjoy them every moment but sometimes dreams of a week alone with a pile of her favorite books. "Four Plus an Angel" -