If you’re a single parent, you face some long odds on getting a good night’s sleep.
About 43 percent of all single parents said they sleep for less than the seven hours each evening that experts often recommend. By comparison, for adults who either live in a two-parent household or have no children, that number drops down to nearly a third.
That’s a significant difference, says Colleen Nugent, a statistician with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.
“Sleep is another domain where single families are disadvantaged compared with other family types,” said Nugent, who analyzed the National Health Interview Survey to develop this study released today. “Single parents get less sleep and experience more sleep-related problems than adults in other types of families.”
That means that fewer single parents report being able to fall asleep easily at night, stay asleep or feel well-rested when they wake up each morning, according to the 2013 survey data, the latest available.
And for women, sleep is far more elusive than for men, whether they have kids or not.
Adults in two-parent households are less likely to say they take sleep medication throughout the week. About 4 percent say they do. By contrast, 10 percent of women without children said they used medication to fall asleep at least four times per week. That’s more than any other group in this survey.
For years, researchers have asked people about how long they sleep each night, but this is the first time this survey asked about the quality of that sleep among adults between age 18 and 64, Nugent said.
“We’re starting to understand how important sleep health is,” especially among kids, she said. Research has established that sleep can influence a child’s tendency toward depression and anxiety, obesity and high-blood pressure, as well as what role family plays in a child’s sleep quality.
Building on that existing research, Nugent said they wanted to learn more about how well adults sleep in single- and two-parent households, as well as homes without children. This survey offers the first answers to those questions.
The data don’t reveal, however, why single parents and women have a worse time sleeping in general, Nugent said.