Sleeping Like A Dad?

“Simply asking ‘How’s your sleep?’ could also be a foot-in-the-door for a dad’s support people to find out what’s keeping him up at night.”

We have all heard the term “sleep like a baby”, which is supposed to mean sleeping peacefully. Parents know the irony of this term! But what might it mean to “sleep like a dad”?

And does it really matter?

The Australian Fatherhood Research Consortium thinks so. For the last year and a half, the researchers, clinicians and advocates at AFRC have been working on getting a snapshot of sleep in fathers, especially dads of babies and young kids. If you sleep like a dad, how do you go at work? And at home?

We know sleep deprivation affects performance of tasks, akin to drink-driving, if severe enough. We know that it’s been used as a form of torture – continuous prevention of sleep can place the brain and body under acute stress to the point of hallucinations and medical crisis. Disruptions to sleep can also be an indicator of other mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. Serious stuff.

At the same time, getting hung up on how much sleep you’re getting can be unhelpful. Sleep affects your wellbeing, sure, but wellbeing affects sleep too – it’s a two-way street. Working on your stress levels and healthy habits can improve your chances of quality sleep. In households where everyone affects everyone else, it can be hard to work out the chicken and the egg with sleep and stress, but usually working on both is wise.

That’s all pretty sensible, and it’s likely many mums of babies and young kids will have conversations like this with their support network, be that a fellow mum, workmate, family member, family doctor or community nurse. New mums are nowadays expected to struggle with sleep, and with improvements in non-judgemental approaches to maternal wellbeing in those early years, it’s now more likely than in the past, that a mum will ask for help while sleep-deprived.

But do sleep-deprived dads feel the same public acknowledgement and encouragement to seek help? How bad do they have it anyway? And how does it affect their role as a father and partner?

That’s what the AFRC wants to find out, for two great reasons.

The first reason is that sleep and mental health are clearly connected, and mental health of fathers is very much a sleeper issue we are only starting to wake up to. While 1 in 7 mums suffers with perinatal depression and anxiety, the figure may be as high as 1 in 10 new dads. Unlike mums, these dads won’t be screened universally, and are less likely to seek help off their own bat. Families suffer when dads suffer, mums very much included. So it benefits everyone to work on improving dads’ mental health.

The second reason for the AFRC’s interest in dads’ sleep, is that dads are probably more comfortable talking about sleep than about mental health. You can ask a dad at a barbecue how much sleep he’s been getting – it’s a conversation starter. Simply asking “How’s your sleep?” could also be a foot-in-the-door for a dad’s support people (eg. partner, friends, workmates, GP, child health nurse) to find out what’s keeping him up at night.

And these are conversations we need to have. If you’re a dad, or know someone who is, the AFRC wants to know: how’s it going? How’s your sleep? Does lack of sleep affect your jobs at work and home? What about your relationships? How do you cope with lack of sleep? How could things be better?

Join the twitter conversation this Sleep Awareness Week 1-7 Oct

And follow AFRC on Facebook


Now Launching: The Asteroid Fist Bump!

Ok dads & mums, so today we invented the ASTEROID FIST BUMP in our home laboratory and now share it for the Common Good of All Kidkind:

1. Do a normal Fist Bump, awarded according to the local standard criteria

2. But that is where ASTEROID FIST BUMP gets awesome. Yes, more awesome than a normal Fist Bump. And maybe even better than the one in Big Hero 6. Big call, we know.

3. The adult’s fist becomes an asteroid and lumbers through space in a scientifically straight line looking for something important to collide with.

4. Then if the kid has BLOWN THE ADULT’S MIND the asteroid explodes on the adult’s forehead (fan the fingers, blow the cheeks out BOOOM).

5. Or if the kid has ROCKED THE ADULT’S HEART AND SOUL then the asteroid explodes on the adult’s chest BOOOM. A dramatic “you got me right here kid!” may be added to amp up the special effects magic.

Now go forth armed with ASTEROID FIST BUMP for celebrating your kid’s small steps and giant leaps.

Walking The Dad Walk – Together. 

“Will your half of your child’s heart fill up with your absence?”


(Pictured above: The feet I walk the walk for)


Mums often find strength for their huge task of motherhood in connecting with other mums. Alas, if you are a dad you probably haven’t had the same encouragement to connect to other dads.

I’m a fatherhood clinician, and I have been designing and running dads’ programmes for a while now. What dads keep telling me time and time again is how good it is to get connected with other dads, be it to share stories, jokes or tips on how to survive and thrive at such an important time in life.


You’ve got such big shoes to fill as a dad, and it can feel like a long walk through sleepless nights, long days making ends meet, rough patches in your relationship, and perishingly few opportunities for the sort of fun you were probably used to having pre-parenthood.



It can be a lonely walk too, at times. I’ve known hundreds of dads who have found themselves isolated at work and from their existing friendship and sporting and recreational networks as their priorities have shifted towards home, where they can again feel isolated from their partners through the sheer workload and 24/7 shiftwork of parenthood.

But here’s the thing: In your neighbourhood – locally and also online – right now, there’s a bunch of other blokes, with babies and kids whose mums are probably already hooking up and supporting each other, walking the long walk of motherhood together. A big goal of mine in starting Town Hall Dads is to equip you dads to walk your walk together as best you all can.

Why do you need dad-specific information and connection?


Well, wherever you live, there is a general Dad Walk and a general Mum Walk.


They have similarities but they are not the same, and the differences matter.


Dads matter! I’ve listened to people from all walks of life, young and old, talking from the heart about their lives, and I’m convinced that whatever era you were born in, dads matter just as much as mums. Little kids’ hearts belong to their mums and dads in equal measure.

Half your kid’s heart can be filled by you! So what are you going to fill it with? How are you going to keep walking the walk, so you can walk in the door, ready each day to keep on filling? What if you don’t keep filling? Will your half of your child’s heart fill up with your absence?


That seems to have happened for lots of kids, and the adults they become. In my psychiatry practice kids and adults tell me all the time – it happened. Hearts were half-filled with Dad’s absence. How do you prevent that for your child?

These are tough questions, which is why I have set out to distil the information about fatherhood I find most useful, filtering out the junk as much as I can, to bring you the purest wisdom I can find for dads across all stages of fatherhood.

Thing is, I know that however good anything I say or link to is, it’s not the same as hearing from someone who lives in your world, who’s going through these things at the same time as you.

So here’s your chance.

Get connected, guys. Odds are the mother of your child has hooked up with other mums already, and they can pass on email addresses or mobile numbers of the fathers of their kids. If you’re a bit shy to meet up straight away, start a group email, or a Facebook page.

Follow Town Hall Dads – and its hashtag #heartoffatherhood across social media -and you’ll all have got to know me as I post useful info on the most important topics around new fatherhood. This will give you plenty to think about and discuss among yourselves; I’ll also give you particular pointers to mull over as you grow your parenthood, step by step, walking the walk.

I’ll stop writing now, because this is me talking the talk, and it’s time to pull my head out of screen-land and be with my family – walking that walk.

But I’ll finish with this: I too have found other dads along my path into fatherhood, away from this work I do, so I can stop being a worker and just be myself with other guys going through similar stuff.

I have the same hope for you.