A qualitative study of the impact of sleep loss on the daily lives of working mothers
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McEneaney, Eimear, & Fox, Jackie. (2017). A qualitative study of the impact of sleep loss on the daily lives of working mothers. Paper presented at the Promoting Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace Conference, Galway.
Background: Working mothers are a population who experience sleep disruption and sleep loss on an ongoing basis. While this has been explored in several studies, there are no studies examining the impact this has on their participation in daily life activities and roles. This qualitative study aimed to explore the perceived impact of sleep disruption on the quality of performance of daily life activities, as well as participation in other life roles such as work and family life. Method: This study used a descriptive phenomenological design. One-to-one semi-structured interviews were carried out with five women who were working at the time of the study and had at least one child under six. A thematic analysis was carried out in order to create four major themes from the data gathered. Results: Sleep loss was found to impact on women in four main ways. Of particular concern was the significant impact on both performance and participation in work activities. All the participants described feeling tired in work, with an impact on their attention and ability to focus on work. Others described an increase in making mistakes, losing their patience with colleagues and a decrease in problem-solving capabilities. Two participants felt that sleep deprivation had prevented them from progressing their careers, with one saying she had not put her name forward for promotion, with tiredness contributing to this, and another saying she could not further her learning at work or stay after work to learn new techniques. In addition, the participation of working mothers in leisure, relaxation or self-care activities was seriously compromised. Conclusion: This study explored how sleep deprivation impacts working mothers. The considerable impact on work activities requires consideration by employers, and gives some insight into the daily challenges faced by working mothers during this period of their lives.