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Pandemic, Parenting, and Sleep

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Having an effective sleep routine, often referred to as sleep hygiene, can be critical to helping ensure children get the amount of quality sleep they need on a regular basis. From limiting technology use to creating a comforting environment for children to sleep in, these efforts can help kids get anywhere from 8 to 16 hours of sleep every day based on age. Getting enough sleep at night can have a positive impact on children’s physical and emotional health, as well as their neurocognitive functions and family life.

But while parents are focused on setting the right bedtime rhythms for kids, limiting access to technology and video games at night, or even considering the feng shui of their children’s bedrooms, they might be forgetting to take care of themselves.

For a closer look at how the pandemic has impacted the amount of quality sleep parents are getting at night, we surveyed 1,000 people (including over 800 parents) to understand their own grown-up bedtime routines. Read on as we explore the most difficult elements of parenting during the COVID-19 pandemic, how many hours of sleep parents are really getting, and how children’s sleep hygiene during the pandemic might be negatively impacting their parents.

Losing Hours Under the Sheets

With the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 has been a difficult year for millions of Americans. And while the impacts of the pandemic have been broad across the country, perhaps one of the most universal elements has been stress. As we discovered, the stress parents may be feeling since the pandemic began could be having a deeply negative effect on their sleep schedules.

parental sleep stats

We started off by asking parents a simple question, “Are you getting enough sleep during the pandemic?” According to our survey results, just 40% of parents felt they’re getting an adequate amount of sleep each night, though mothers (33%) were even less likely to feel well-rested than fathers (48%). In addition to the disparity between men and women, we found single parents (32%) were significantly less likely to report getting enough sleep, compared to two-parent households (41%).

Overwhelmingly, 48% of parents admitted to getting less sleep during the pandemic than they were before it began. Parents of infants (30%) were also the least likely to indicate getting enough sleep, on average. With overall shorter sleep cycles, parents of infants can expect to wake up every two to three hours depending on their baby’s age.

Before the pandemic, parents reported sleeping an average of 7 hours and 10 minutes every night. After the pandemic’s onset, parents we surveyed indicated getting just over 6.5 hours of sleep each night, averaging to nearly four hours less per week.

Trickle Down Sleeping Habits

With limited or amended options for schooling and day care, millions of parents have had to make significant shifts in their children’s routines to accommodate distance learning and social distancing recommendations. These changes aren’t just tough for kids – they can be tough for parents, too.

covid and children

Forty percent of parents indicated their sleep was negatively impacted by their children during the pandemic, including 37% of men and 43% of women. Mothers, particularly working mothers, have been harder hit by the impacts of the pandemic on their home life with changes to child care and distance learning. With few options for leave from their jobs, many women are struggling to stay in the workforce at all with the added pressures of their home life.

Parents of younger children, including infants (64%) or toddlers (50%), were more likely to indicate their sleep has been negatively impacted by their children during the pandemic. In contrast, parents of young teens (34%) and teenagers (30%) were the least likely to report negative changes to their rest cycles. Parents aren’t the only ones getting worse sleep. Twenty-seven percent of parents said their children’s sleep had been hindered during the pandemic, and 22% said their children were getting less sleep overall.

Four in 5 parents admitted their children had picked up a new sleeping habit during the pandemic, including staying up later (40%), struggling to fall asleep (35%), sleeping in later (32%), and using more technology at night (30%).

Challenges of Parenting in the Pandemic

Parents aren’t the only ones stressing out about the pandemic, and one of the best ways to keep kids calm is to maintain as much of their regular routine as possible. Unfortunately, it can be more difficult for parents to create normalcy for their children than you might expect.

parenting challenges

Forty-one percent of parents admitted it was more difficult to handle their children during the pandemic, including 36% of men and 46% of women. Single parents (51%) were also considerably more likely to struggle with their children’s behavior during the pandemic than those in two-parent households (40%).

And while younger children (particularly infants and toddlers) might have the most disrupted sleep due to the pandemic, parents were more likely to indicate older kids, including 9- to 11-year-olds (47%) and teens (46%) were more difficult to handle. School-aged children currently engaged in distance learning may be prone to extra distractions caused by technology, and those who struggle with focusing or maintaining their attention span may find distance learning even more challenging.

For parents, the most difficult tasks during the pandemic included maintaining consistent bedtimes (48%) and wake-up times (36%), putting children to sleep (36%), and getting children to do homework (26%). Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they found parenting more exhausting during the pandemic, and 55% said it was more frustrating. In addition to feeling more stressed (72%) and overwhelmed (63%), we found parents were also feeling less in control (48%) or mentally well (46%) during the pandemic.

Disrupted Family Routines

For millions of Americans, the pandemic and its effects on daily life and routines have been stressful. For many parents, we found the stress of balancing the effects of the pandemic at home has had a direct, negative impact on the amount and quality of sleep they’ve been getting this year. And while many parents admitted their sleep has been adversely impacted by their children, we found these effects were even worse for single parents and mothers.

At The Sleep Judge, our mission is simply to help people get better sleep. By providing access to sleep resources, including sleep research and sleep health guides, we’re passionate about empowering people to take control of their sleep hygiene in every possible way. You’ll also find reviews for all of the best mattresses, pillows, and sleep accessories on the market as well as coupons and discounts, so you know you’re getting the best price on top-rated sleep solutions. Learn more and find your perfect sleep fit online at TheSleepJudge.com today.

Methodology and Limitations

We surveyed 804 respondents who were raising children in their household, and 196 respondents with no children. Our respondents ranged in age from 18 to 75, with an average age of 38. 462 respondents were male, 535 respondents were female, and three respondents did not identify as male or female.

To help guarantee accurate responses, all survey respondents were required to identify and correctly respond to an attention-check question. In some cases, questions and answers have been paraphrased or rephrased for clarity or brevity. These data rely on self-reporting, and potential issues with self-reported data include, but are not limited to, telescoping, selective memory, and attribution errors.

Fair Use Statement

Are your readers still trying to find the right balance for their children (and themselves) during the pandemic? We encourage you to share the results of this study for any noncommercial use with the inclusion of a link back to this page in your story to provide access to our full findings and methodology.