Single Parents, Moms Especially, Most Sleep-Deprived

Megan Brooks

January 14, 2016

Single parents, especially mothers, are the most sleep-deprived group in the United States, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Among families with children younger than 18 years, research has shown that the percentage of single-parent families has increased to 32% over the past several decades, Colleen Nugent, PhD, and Lindsey Black, MPH, from the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, note in their January 6 data brief.

"Research has shown that single parents have fewer financial resources and this report finds that sleep is another domain in which single-parent families are disadvantaged," they add.

The researchers analyzed data from a nationally representative sample of US adults 18 to 64 years old who participated in the 2013–2014 National Health Interview Survey.

They found that single parents, especially mothers, were more likely than adults in other types of families to have short sleep duration, frequently have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, and frequently wake up feeling not well rested.

Among women, 43.5% of single mothers who live with children under the age of 18 sleep less than the recommended 7 hours of nightly sleep, which is higher than for adults in 2-parent families (31.2%) and adults living without children (29.7%), the data suggest.

Among men, 37.5% of single fathers with young children get fewer than 7 hours sleep nightly — more than adults living without children (32.3%).

Nearly a quarter (23.8%) of single mothers who live with children report frequently having trouble falling asleep, as do 17.3% of single fathers with kids in the house, which is higher than for adults in 2-parent families and adults without children. Single parents were also more likely to frequently have trouble staying asleep.

Public Health Priority

Roughly half of single parents report frequently waking up feeling not well rested in the past week, compared with only 4 in 10 adults in 2-parent families and one third of adults without children.

Within every family type, women were more likely than men to "frequently" have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep and to frequently wake up feeling not well rested, the researchers report.

As for use of sleep aids, 3.9% of adults in 2-parent families reported taking medication to help them fall asleep or stay asleep at least 4 times in the past week, compared with 7.9% of adults living without children and 7.3% of single parents.

Sleep affects many aspects of well-being and quality of life for people of all ages. Not getting enough nightly sleep and poor-quality sleep has been linked to increased risk for physical health problems, including diabetes and heart disease, mental health issues (such as depression), and driving and workplace accidents, Nugent and Black note in their brief.

"Getting sufficient sleep is a national health objective and a public health priority," they point out.

The authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

NCHS Data Brief. Published online January 6, 2016. Full text

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