Peter H Brown Clinical Psychologist

Psychology News & Resources

Dads Deaf to Crying Kids

MANY an exhausted mum has suspected her husband of pretending to be asleep when the baby cries in the middle of the night.

But the man really is firmly in the land of nod, say researchers.

While a baby’s sobbing is the No.1 sound most likely to wake up a woman, it doesn’t even figure in the male top 10.

Car alarms and howling wind are prime noises guaranteed to disturb a man’s sleep.

The differences were revealed by tests measuring subconscious brain activity.

They found that a woman’s maternal instincts kick in at the sound of a baby’s cries – whether or not she is a mother.

The tests, carried out at the MindLab institution as part of research into the importance of a good night’s sleep, recreated a ‘‘sleep environment’’ for each volunteer before playing sounds and measuring the results on an electroencephalography machine to measure how regular brain activity is disturbed by them.

Psychologist Dr David Lewis said: ‘‘There is nothing more likely to leave you feeling drained and depressed than disturbed sleep.

‘‘While some sounds – for instance, your partner coughing or snoring beside you – disturb men and women equally, other noises such as a howling wind cause men to be more disturbed than women.

‘‘Women are more likely to be disturbed by a crying baby. These differing sensitivities may represent evolutionary differences that make women sensitive to sounds associated with a potential threat to their children while men are more finely tuned to disturbances posing a possible threat to the whole family.’’

The tests also found that 33 per cent of both sexes had moved to a spare room to get away from a partner’s snoring.


December 16, 2009 - Posted by | Cognition, General, Health Psychology, Social Psychology | , , , ,


  1. Woohoo!!! I knew there had to be a reason.

    Comment by Gavin Bollard | December 16, 2009 | Reply

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    Comment by Heather | February 4, 2010 | Reply

    • Hi Heather! Have sent you an email re this comment.Thanks!


      Comment by peterhbrown | February 26, 2010 | Reply

  3. Excellent story and and quotes from doctors…I really enjoyed this piece.

    Comment by Writer's Post Network | February 9, 2010 | Reply

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