Sleep Fictions: A Digital Companion


Despite Gilman's adherence to routine, restorative rest, the Forerunner also features moments in which Gilman upholds the archetype of the tireless mother, who sacrifices sleep to tend to her children around the clock. This stereotype is conveyed in the poem "The Real Religion" by figuring women as "overflowing" with "love and labor." Childbirth is presented as a means of "awakening" that empowers women to become the "tireless mother."

In reality, childbirth and parenthood has the opposite effect on the body. A 2019 study published in SleepJ* reveals "that pregnancy, and particularly the first several months postpartum, is accompanied by a marked decline in parental sleep satisfaction. This is especially true for first-time mothers, for whom childbirth is presumably the most significantly sleep-altering life event during their adulthood. After the birth of a first child, sleep satisfaction apparently does not fully recover to prepregnancy levels in either mothers or fathers. It is therefore possible that parenthood contributes meaningfully to the well-documented overall decline in sleep satisfaction during adulthood."


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