Who are the most sleep-deprived people in America? Federal researchers say the answer is clear: single mothers.
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that 44% of single moms living with children under the age of 18 fall short of recommendations to get at least seven hours of shut-eye each night.
Single dads who live with their kids fare a little better – 38% of them sleep less than seven hours per night.
Overall, single parents had the worst odds of getting a good night’s sleep. But couples with children in their homes also suffered in the sleep department – 33% of them slept less than seven hours per night, compared with 31% of adults who didn’t live with kids. That difference, while small, was statistically significant.
Though single moms were more sleep-deprived than single dads, the reverse was true for moms and dads living with their nuclear families. The report found that 34% of these dads got less than seven hours of slumber, compared with 31% of moms. This small difference was also statistically significant.
Single parents also had the most trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, according to the report. Researchers found that 24% of single moms and 17% of single dads said they had trouble falling asleep at least four times a week. That compares with 14% of moms and 10% of dads who live together.
In addition, 28% of single moms and 19% of single dads had trouble staying asleep four or more times a week. They were joined by 21% of moms and 13% of dads who lived with their partners.
However, couples living with children were better off in these respects than adults without kids in their homes. According to the report, 19% of these women had trouble falling asleep and 24% of them had trouble staying asleep at least four times a week. For men, 13% had trouble falling asleep and 18% had trouble staying asleep at least four times a week.
In each type of family, women were more likely than men to report difficulty falling and staying asleep a majority of the time.
All of this troubled sleep made a difference in the morning. Fully half of single parents living with kids – including 52% of single moms and 40% of single dads – did not feel well rested four or more days a week.
They were followed by adults in two-parent families, with 47% of moms and 38% of dads wishing they could get more sleep at least four times a week.
Men (33%) and women (39%) not living with children were least likely to experience four or more groggy mornings a week.
Despite this, adults who didn’t have kids in their homes were the ones most likely to take medicine to help them catch their ZZZZZs. According to the report, 8% of these adults took sleep medications at least four times a week, compared with 7% of single parents and 4% of adults living with their partners and their kids.
U.S. health officials have made a good night’s sleep a national priority. People who are sleep-deprived are at greater risk for heart disease, diabetes and depression. They’re also more likely to be involved in car crashes or workplace accidents, the report authors noted.
A study published last month in the journal PLOS Medicine identified sleep deprivation as a risk factor for premature death.
MORE FROM SCIENCE