Twice the Love—And a Lot Less Sleep

Elizabeth Damato, Ph.D., R.N., is studying the sleep patterns of parents of twins, monitoring their sleep duration, sleep quality, fatigue levels and mood.

Mothers of newborn twins get about two hours less sleep in a 24-hour period than moms with single newborns.

Mothers of newborn twins get about two hours less sleep in a 24-hour period than moms with single newborns.

“Sleep deprivation can bring on symptoms of depression and can impact how parents interact with their babies,” says Damato, of Case Western Reserve University’s Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing. “Some 29 percent to 42 percent of mothers with twins report depression.”

This information is drawing attention as more and more women give birth to twins. The rate of twin births has risen 70 percent since 1980 as fertility treatments have become increasingly common.

Damato presented early findings from her study this summer. She found moms are getting an average of 5.4 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period during their first month home from the hospital. But they aren’t getting those 5.4 hours all at once. They get an average of 15 sleep episodes, each about 22 minutes. Eight weeks after births, moms got slightly more sleep—5.6 hours in stretches lasting an average of 31.8 minutes.

For comparison, moms with a single newborn get about two extra hours of sleep in a 24-hour period.