Lack of sleep may be the bane of parents lives when their kids are aged five and under, but many believe the rewards they get from being a parent at this stage surpasses their need for shut-eye, when it comes to their overall happiness.
Research by the National Centre for Social Research suggested that during the toddler stage - when parenting can often be at its most intense - the value of parenthood and stronger social bonds outweighed the lack of sleep and financial pressures associated with having kids of this age. This resulted in parents having higher-than-average happiness scores.
Parents were half as likely to get a good night’s sleep “most of the time” than non-parents, yet the research found having a child under five years old adds 3.3 points to a person’s happiness score. The index gives people a score out of 100, with the average non-parent scoring 62.2, while a parent of a child under five scores 65.5.
“Perhaps surprisingly, we found the Young Families group [parents of kids 0-5] is living best, with an average score narrowly above that of the Working Baby Boomers [over 55s with no kids],” the report concluded. “At the other end of the spectrum, the group feeling worst-off is Child-free Generation X – with a score almost four points below the national average.”
The research, done with Sainsbury’s Living Well Index, measures the factors associated with how well we are living, from debt to health, social media and relationships. Researchers asked a nationally representative panel of 8,250 people questions covering 60 different aspects of their behaviour.
In comparison to parents of toddlers, those adults of the same age who didn’t have children had the lowest happiness scores, due to weaker support networks and poorer sex life satisfaction.
While parents might rate their job as a mum or dad higher than their need for sleep when it comes to their overall wellbeing - that doesn’t mean they don’t want more slepp. Lisa Artis, from the British Sleep Council previously gave HuffPost UK Parents readers advice on managing the lack of sleep as a new parent. She said many parents struggle to fall asleep when their head hits the pillow because they are mentally exhausted.
“If you’re having difficulty actually getting to sleep, one of the first things to look at is your bedroom,” Artis advised. “You need the right environment to get a good night’s sleep and that means a bedroom that’s cool, quiet and dark. It may be worth considering investing in dimmer light to avoid bright light waking you up.”
She also said a 20-minute power nap can give you “as much energy as two cups of strong coffee, but the effects are longer lasting”, and suggested trying to take naps when your baby sleeps. But if that’s not possible, you should still make the most of your baby’s nap time.
“If you can’t nod off - no matter how tired you are - do something that helps you unwind such as having a bubble bath or vegging out in front of the TV,” she said. “This will provide the rest you crave – the dishes can wait!”