I’m tired. Exhausted even. Like all the time. Some people will say this is par for the course when you’re a working parent with a young child. Especially when the newborn is around, you can kiss your sleep goodbye. Most moms and dads can attest to that. But what if you’re clocking in a good seven or eight hours and you’re still not rested? Are you really getting a good night’s sleep?

Polling the Sleep-Deprived Parent

To get some sense of where I fit into the pack, I turned to my dad bloggers friends on Facebook for insight into their typical nightly experience. Out of the 100 or so dad bloggers who responded to my highly unscientific poll:

  • 50% said they get less than 6 hours of sleep
  • 44% said they get 6 to 8 hours of sleep

The remaining 6 percent said they’re either asleep right now, they just lay there in the dark with their eyes closed, or they question what is this “sleep” I’m speaking of. I fully expected to get trolled to some degree. This is a dad blogger group on Facebook, after all.

Notably, not a single person responded saying they typically get 8 to 10 hours each night. Maybe all this sleep deprivation is helping them develop superpowers too.

More Than Eight Hours…

A couple of weeks ago, I came across this video by Vox. It speaks specifically to why black Americans are getting less sleep and how this “sleep gap reflects inequality and contributes to it.” While I’m certainly not downplaying this perspective, the video also highlights the key characteristics of a “good night’s sleep” and what that really means.

For the typical adult between the ages of 18 and 64, a good night’s sleep is defined as:

  • At least 7 hours of actual sleep
  • At least 85% of time in bed
  • Falling asleep in under 30 minutes
  • Waking up no more than once per night
  • Going back to sleep in under 20 minutes

How many of those boxes do you tick every night?

You see, it’s not just about getting enough sleep; it’s about getting better quality sleep. Falling asleep on the couch violates the second requirement above, for instance. That could explain why you wake up feeling so tired in the morning. I know I do.

Falling asleep quickly is a particularly big challenge for me. My brain won’t shut up, no matter how tired I am. As a result, I oftentimes spend upwards of an hour tossing and turning before I conk out. And then I’ll wake up several times each night, typically after a dream. I dream a lot.

One of my dad blogger friends commented that, according to a recent sleep test, he was “never going into REM.” One dad said he “whipsaws” between nights with six to seven hours and nights with fewer than four. Another indicated he was typically getting fewer than four hours each night for 10 of the last 15 years. Six hours uninterrupted “would have been a dream come true.”

Asleep on the job

Sleep Like a Baby

Some of this has to do with “dream feeds” for babies and children waking up in the middle of the night, to be sure. But that’s only part of the picture. How many of us binge a little more Netflix or dive a little further down the bottomless pit of the Internet after the munchkins are tucked in for the night? We crave that quiet time, even after we’ve established a bedtime routine for the kids and they (generally) sleep through the night.

As an aside, the term “sleep like a baby” is so misleading. You might think it means to sleep peacefully. In truth, most babies only sleep for a couple hours at a stretch (if you’re lucky) before they wake up crying, begging for a feed and a diaper change. I don’t think you want to sleep like a baby.

Before becoming a dad, the freelance lifestyle afforded me a fair bit of flexibility in my schedule. These days, I don’t get to sleep in until noon anymore. That’s just not an option. And I’ve had to adjust accordingly, something that I’m still actively working on.

Do you consistently get a good night’s sleep? How do you do it?