Think You Sleep Badly? Spare Some Sympathy For Single Moms
A survey to find the most sleep-deprived people in the United States identified — perhaps not surprisingly — single parents, and most especially single moms.
A full 44 percent of single mothers living at home with children under the age of 18 came up short in getting the recommended 7 hours of nightly sleep, a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
Single dads with children did a little better, but not much; 38 percent still slept less than the recommended number of hours, the report noted.
Single parents also were also more likely to report poorer quality of sleep and symptoms of insomnia, and to say they resorted to using sleep medications.
In comparison, around 33 percent of adults in the U.S. living as part of two-parent families slept less than the recommended 7 hours, the CDC reported.
A good night's sleep should be a national priority, health officials say, citing studies showing that sleep-deprived people face higher risks of diabetes, heart disease and depression.
Other studies have linked sleep-deprivation to an increased risk of cancer, and found it made people more likely to be involved in workplace accidents or car crashes.
Dr. Stuart Quan, a sleep medicine specialist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, although not a participant in the CDC research, says it is "not surprising" that single parents top the list of the sleep-deprived.
In families with just one parent the demands on that parent are significantly greater than those on adults in a two-parent family, he says.
"In general, people tend to sacrifice sleep when they have competing priorities, such as work, family responsibilities and social obligations," he says.
To create their report, the CDC investigators analyzed data gathered in the 2013-2014 National Health Interview Survey.
The survey is conducted annually with around 44,000 adults split equally between men and women.
A significant finding of the survey was that women in all kinds of families, whether single parent, two-parent or in households with no children, were more likely than men to experience difficulty getting to sleep and remaining asleep, the researchers say.
Fifty-seven percent of single mothers said they woke up feeling they were not well-rested, while 46 percent of women living in two-parent families said the same as did 39 percent of women living in a home without children.
Quan says his own studies have found the same thing.
"In virtually all epidemiological studies of sleep, women tend to have more sleep-related complaints than men," he says, noting that gender differences in quality of sleep are seen from a very early age.