Stress levels of mothers with preschoolers soared during the Covid-19 pandemic, with twice as many of the mothers reporting a loss of sleep during the virus outbreak than before it, finds a study.

The study, published in the scientific journal ‘Women’s Health’, supports the necessity of providing mothers with reliable, affordable childcare options and a clear path to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

“Moms of young children are already less likely to get the recommended amount of sleep and physical activity than women who don’t have children. These shortfalls could raise the risk for obesity and poor health, and the lockdown worsened the situation by increasing the levels of stress and household chaos,” said Chelsea Kracht, post-doctoral researcher in the Pediatric Obesity and Health Behaviour Laboratory at the Pennington Biomedical Research Centre in the US.

Mothers who worked remotely during the Covid-19 shutdown reported more household chaos than those who were not teleworking. This is likely because the first group of mothers had to supervise their children’s remote schooling and telework at the same time.

Having fathers or other family members take on some of the childcare and housework would help the mothers balance the demands of their careers and personal lives, Kracht said.

“There are a number of ways moms can reduce stress, such as taking a break from the news and spending a few minutes unwinding before they go to sleep. But what moms really need is more support, from their family, workplaces and communities. They need systemic change,” said Amanda Staiano, Associate Professor and Director at the Laboratory.

The study looked at the relationship between household chaos — disorder, noise, crowding stress, physical activity — and sleep for moms. Researchers surveyed more than 1,700 mothers of 3-to-5-year olds during May 2020.